Earl ‘Bob’ Hodge and former Customs Officer Roberto ‘Tico’ Harrigan have been released and will not be extradited to the United States.
High Court Judge Godfrey Smith gave that ruling today, June 29.
Back in November 2017, Magistrate Shawn Innocent had ruled in favour of the US Justice Department to extradite Hodge and Harrigan from the British Virgin Islands.
However, the embattled duo appealed the decision, and today received a favourable result from the High Court.
While announcing his decision at the High Court Registry in Road Town, Judge Smith listed a few reasons neither men should be extradited.
He said Hodge is a BVI citizen and Harrigan a Belonger. And, should the men be made to answer to the allegations against them, the BVI is the ‘appropriate forum for trial of the alleged offences’.
He noted the alleged offences are ‘of BVI nature’ and both men can be ‘effectively tried here’.
The judge also said, if extradited, Hodge and Harrigan are likely to receive ‘long’ and ‘disproportionate sentences’.
Unjust and oppressive to extradite duo
He further reasoned Hodge and Harrigan are likely to suffer ‘prejudice from the US system based on their race’.
Judge Smith then pointed to the number of years the duo has been hauled before the courts. He agreed the men’s trial has been ‘unnecessarily delayed’ by the three extradition attempts by the US. During these attempts, Hodge and Harrigan had to endure alternating periods of freedom and remand.
“All of these circumstances make out an overwhelming case that, at this junction, it would be unjust and oppressive to extradite them to the United States,” Judge Smith ruled.
He further said the extradition would infringe on their constitutional rights.
Queen’s Counsel Edward Fitzgerald represented Hodge while defence attorneys Patrick Thompson and Ben Cooper represented Harrigan.
As mentioned, this was the latest of three attempts that the United States made to have the two men extradited.
Initially, they were seeking to extradite four. The other two men were Carlston Beazer and Chad Skelton. In the year 2012, then High Court judge Justice Albert Redhead ruled that the men were NOT to be sent to the United States.
Following that ruling, the prosecution obtained new evidence against the four men, and then Governor Boyd McCleary issued an Order for a second extradition hearing to take place.
The four men, through their attorneys, challenged the Governor’s order through a judicial review, which was heard by Justice Vicki Ann Ellis. Justice Ellis ruled in 2015 against the Governor’s Office Order to have the second extradition hearing.
All four initially sought were then released from police custody in late 2015, after they spent more than three years behind bars trying to fight the extradition requests in court.
The quartet, in the meantime, was slapped with local charges. But the prosecution dropped those while it pursued the extradition matter without success.
The US accuses them of participating in a Caibbean-based drug trafficking organisation that transported cocaine by plane and boat from Venuzuela and areas in South America to Caribbean islands, Central America, and parts of the US.