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Feb 25, 2015

Bahamians Acquitted in Magistrate’s Court

The trial of two Bahamian nationals who were charged by the Financial Intelligence Unit back on September twelfth, 2014, came to a close today after months before the courts and testimonies of twelve witnesses. The duo, Kelvin Leach and Rohn Knowles, were detained by police at the Philip Goldson International Airport as they tried to leave on a chartered flight. But while the F.I.U. claimed that they were in Possession of Funds in excess of ten thousand Belize dollars which they had failed to declare, the reason for their arrest was also based on information that they were wanted by the U.S. government for a billion dollar securities fraud. In making her decision today, Senior Magistrate Sharon Fraser took into consideration three factors to determine if the charges levied against Leach and Knowles could be proven. And after considering the elements, the senior magistrate upheld Smith’s no case submission and the men were freed of the charges. Duane Moody has the following report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

After six months of back and forth at the courts, Bahamian nationals, Kelvin Leach and Rohn Knowles, have been freed of charges for failing to declare in excess of ten thousand Belize dollars before departing the P.G.I.A.  That was the decision made by Senior Magistrate Sharon Fraser today following a no case submission made by attorney Godfrey Smith on behalf of his clients.

 

Godfrey Smith

Godfrey Smith, Attorney for Defendants

“In truth it wasn’t a complex decision in my view. Although it was a drawn out case, it had twelve witnesses. But at the end of the day as the judge rightly pointed out, the whole case turned on whether the gentlemen were guilty on failing to declare sums in excess of ten thousand dollars. The prosecution’s own witnesses said that you deemed to commit the offence after you’ve cleared all the official checkpoints mainly airports authority counter and immigration counter. If after that you don’t declare then you’ve committed the offense. And this wasn’t the case. So as the judge rightly pointed out, it was entirely premature.”

 

So that’s the end of the FIU case against Leach and Knowles. According to Attorney Godfrey Smith, he will now apply for the monies, accounts, files and documents, seized by the FIU, to be returned.

 

Godfrey Smith

“The real story here; this was a foregone conclusion as a result of this case. The real story here is that the state has acted in an extremely oppressive manner in relation to these people. You will recall that around September ninth or thereabouts of last year, police sweep in on these gentlemen office, seized all their documents, froze all their accounts and eventually detained them in prison. What has happened since is that first of all the courts have found that their detention was completely without authority so that they had been unlawfully remanded and detained at Hattieville prison. Secondly that their monies were unconstitutionally and unlawfully frozen. Thirdly, that their documents and other documents for their clients were unlawfully seized and had to be returned. I say that to say this that damages were very large in this case. Because of all of this, these gentlemen’s business has been shut down completely and the court has found it unlawfully and wrongly so.”

 

Their detention came as a result of information that the US government wanted them in connection with a billion dollar securities fraud allegation. As to the extradition request, Attorney Smith says that he believes that the local authorities were acting based on instructions from agents of the United States government.

 

Godfrey Smith

“Having gotten over this final stage, the extradition request has been made and is pending before the court. But this is what I have to say. That extradition request is based on information put together unlawfully, illegally after they had illegally seized the documents and all the computers…had it for in excess of two or three months and used that information to create an extradition request, to formulate an extradition request. That might be permissible in the United States from which this entire operation is being directed. It is not permissible under the common law system. You cannot use unlawfully, illegally obtained evidence to form the basis of charges to bring against anybody for extradition. So we intend to attack it at the very roots at the very first opportunity. That is my view from day one that they were acting, in my view, under the direction of agents from the United States government. The problem with that is—that I have said in a previous occasion—when the illegalities are found to have been committed by the court and damages are to be paid, it is not the United States government that will be paying it. It is the taxpayers of Belize. So the state has an obligation because it rushing to do the bidding of the United States Government to make sure it checks its case properly before saddling taxpayers with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in damages.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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2 Responses for “Bahamians Acquitted in Magistrate’s Court”

  1. Rod says:

    Money talks this gov is so corrupt you can buy a judge for one piece of fried chicken.

  2. CEO says:

    Who was the police in charge of this operation?

    These are the times when the lack of skills of the Belize PD comes to the fore front.

    They really need training in skills and execution; they have no knowledge of the law they are are enforcing.

    They had a case because these guys were not about to declare the funds they were traveling with but they pissed the opportunity away.

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