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Jan 18, 2018

Extraditions Proceedings against Attorney Andrew Bennett Begin before Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer

Andrew Bennett

One hundred thousand dollars, plus one surety of the same amount; that’s the cost of Andrew Bennett’s freedom after appearing before Chief Magistrate Sharon Frazer this morning as extradition proceedings against him begin.  Represented by a trio of fellow attorneys led by Anthony Sylvester, the forty-six-year-old was escorted into the lower court free of manacles and police guard.  Bennett is wanted on money laundering charges by the U.S. State Department after being indicted in absentia by a grand jury in Puerto Rico.  It is alleged that Bennett willfully transformed the profits of a so-called drug trafficking organization into ostensibly legitimate assets through a local company here in Belize City.  Of the two hundred and fifty thousand U.S. dollars that was reportedly laundered, he took for himself fifty thousand U.S. dollars in commission. The money which was delivered to him at a restaurant, according to documents, was later taken to another business house, Sling Shot Signs belonging to Kareem Berges. When he walked out of that business, the money bag was empty.  In court this morning, Bennett appeared relaxed, his liberty hanging in the balance, pending the outcome of today’s proceedings.  While his fate as a free man rested with the Chief Magistrate, lead counsel Anthony Sylvester sought bail on behalf of Bennett on several grounds.  Upon learning of the request for his extradition on December twenty-eighth, Bennett did not flee the jurisdiction.  Instead, he voluntarily surrendered to local authorities this morning, ahead of his arraignment.  Secondly, Bennett was not accused of committing a capital offence, therefore was entitled to bail.  That submission being successful, Bennett was released under security of one hundred thousand dollars which the Chief Magistrate informed could have been the equivalent of a land document of similar value.

 

Anthony Sylvester

Anthony Sylvester, Attorney for Andrew Bennett

“I couldn’t take any chances, you know, although we know that the court has jurisdiction we didn’t want to take anything for granted, so we thought it best to adequately prepare and to lay out for the court the source of our jurisdiction to grant bail which goes way back to the 1800s.  So we made the point that yes, while it may have been the case that may be persons who have been arraigned on extradition weren’t granted bail but they are circumstances or facts which distinguish or take this defendant’s case, Mr. Bennett’s case, from theirs, such as, for instance, where a person would have committed an offense say in the United States and fled to this jurisdiction, then clearly those would have been compelling reasons why a person would not have been granted bail, you know.  We also stressed the fact that since the coming into being of our constitution that these extradition proceedings, whereas in the past they may have been conducted differently but now they should be conducted with respect to an awareness that a fact that a person does have constitutional rights.  One of those very, very important and fundamental rights is that they should not be deprived of their liberty, except in accordance with law and that when the principles with respect to bail were considered, that in all the circumstances this petitioner, this defendant ought to have been granted bail, and so we are grateful for that.”

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