Mark Seawell beats US extradition request Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 12 April 2017 00:00

After 10 years on lockdown at the Belize Central Prison, Mark Seawell has been released following a judgment from the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin. He is the third Seawell brother who was indicted by a US grand jury for narcotics trafficking, and he has been fighting – and has now beaten – his extradition to that country to face trial.

But, up until Thursday, April 6, 2017, there appeared no end to his lockdown. His stroke of good fortune actually dates back to November 4, 2016, 5 months ago. That’s when his brother, Gary Seawell, beat his extradition to the US at the Court of Appeal. Gary’s attorneys, Anthony Sylvestre, and British Barrister Ben Cooper, successfully argued before the Appeal Court panel that there was a flaw in procedure because the examining magistrate’s warrant for his committal to prison was missing.

Anthony Sylvestre and Ben Cooper then teamed up with Bryan Neal, and when they examined Mark Seawell’s case, they discovered what they believed was a fatal flaw in procedure for the extradition proceedings against him as well. Readers are aware that a committal warrant is an order from a judge or magistrate which gives the state authority to hold a defendant in prison.

Mark Seawell would have had to wait until his case got to the Court of Appeal to argue this new discovery, but fortunately for him, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin heard his habeas corpus case back in August of 2013, and in all that time, the judge hadn’t given a decision. So, his attorneys applied to the court to re-open the case so that new arguments can be submitted.

The judge agreed, and on Friday, March 31, Seawell’s legal team presented those new submissions. They told the court that the examining Magistrate, which was then Chief Magistrate, Margaret McKenzie, failed to issue a committal warrant that is in line with what is expected under the Extradition Act. They submitted, secondly, that the examining magistrate failed to send the Minister of Foreign Affairs a certificate of committal, and a “report upon the case as he may think fit”. Finally, Mark Seawell’s attorneys asserted that the examining magistrate failed to state the offences proven against him in the committal warrant. These, they argued, are breaches to Seawell’s constitutional rights, and that they make the extradition proceedings against him defective.

The Chief Justice heard Acting Solicitor General Nigel Hawke’s response to these new arguments, and 6 days later, he agreed with Seawell’s attorneys. He granted the writ of habeas corpus, discharging him of all extradition procedures, and setting him free.

Seawell arrived at court in handcuffs, and with a police escort, but after the judgment was handed down, he was able to exit the court a free man. He immediately made his way out of court and presumably home to his family.

He won’t be sent to the US to face trial for the indictments of conspiracy to import cocaine into the US, conspiracy to distribute and process with the intent to distribute marijuana; conspiracy to commit money laundering; money laundering; laundering money to conceal or disguise the nature, locations, source and ownership of proceeds of the sale of cocaine and marijuana; unlawful importation of cocaine into the US; unlawful attempt to import cocaine in the US; and unlawful attempt to possess with intent to distribute; and operating a continuing criminal enterprise.

He and his brother, Gary, are the only ones to beat their extradition. Their other brother, Duane, was caught by US authorities in Miami. He is still serving a 17-year sentence in a US prison.