Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Lawyers for the five men facing extradition to the United States (US) in connection with an alleged 13-year drug ring and Government's legal team will head before a High Court Judge next month for an appeal hearing against a Magisterial decision that the men should be extradited.
BVI Platinum News has confirmed that the hearing will take place on Thursday, July 12 and Friday, July 13. The men are local businessman Earl Delville Hodge known as 'Bob Hodge'; Customs Officer Roberto Harrigan known as 'Tico'; Chad Skelton; Carlston Beazer; and Juan Valdez.
The two-day hearing will take place before High Court Judge, Justice Albert Redhead.
A hearing was held in chambers last month to streamline legal submissions and to fix procedural timelines ahead of the actual
Following the extradition hearing in March in the Magistrate's Court, Senior Magistrate Stephens had ruled that she found a prima facie case was made out against the men who are wanted by the US Government.
The men are all wanted by Florida law enforcement officials, while Hodge was committed for extradition to face trial in both Florida and North Carolina.
In delivering her decision on March 13, the Magistrate said that she was committing each of the men to Her Majesty's Prison to await a decision from the Governor on the extradition.
At the time, she also told the men that they have a right to file a Habeas Corpus in the High Court and following this, lawyers for the men filed a Habeas Corpus, hence the July 12 and July 13 hearing.
In her March ruling, Senior Magistrate Stephens said in relation to the North Carolina request, the extradition request came through the right diplomatic channels. She said she was also satisfied that Bob Hodge was identified by James Springette, Elton Turnbull and Sandra Harrison.
Stephens said in relation to Florida, the right diplomatic channels were also used in relation to this request. She said she was also satisfied that the men were identified by Edwardo Diaz and Roberto Mendez.
She said after weighing all the submissions, the US would have jurisdiction to try the matter given the overt acts that were committed.
It is alleged that the five men were parties to a conspiracy to import cocaine from South America into the Virgin Islands for onward shipment to Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands and the United States mainland. Bob Hodge made arrangements with several persons, including Roberto Mendez-Hurtado, a Colombian drug lord.
According to the US, the agreement was to unlawfully import cocaine by way of airdrops at night in the Territorial waters of the Virgin Islands. Those arrangements allegedly began sometime in 1998 until September 29, 2010. It is further alleged that payments for each shipment were made to Bob Hodge, initially in the amount of 10 percent per worth of each load and later to 15 percent per load.
The men are also facing local charges in relation to the same drug ring and those charges were adjourned in late September 2011 to allow for the extradition hearing to take priority.