From top, L-R: Carlston Beazer, Chad Skelton, Roberto Harrigan and Bob Hodge.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The United States (US) Government has issued a fresh extradition request from the State of Florida for Earl Delville Hodge known as 'Bob Hodge'; Customs Officer Roberto Harrigan known as 'Tico'; Chad Skelton; Carlston Beazer; and Juan Valdez in relation to an alleged drug ring.
Governor Boyd McCleary has also issued a fresh Order to Proceed document to Magistrate Tamia Richards to proceed with a new extradition hearing.
This revelation was made today, October 12 by Natalie Sandiford of the Attorney General's (AG) Chambers.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Wayne Rajbansie also disclosed that he has decided to discontinue the local charges in relation to the drug ring.
When the men reappeared in court, Sandiford told Magistrate Richards that extradition warrants were served on the men this morning. She said they also have a fresh Order to Proceed for the offences in relation to the Florida request.
She further stated that yesterday, they received the fresh request from the US and that they also have new counts and additional evidence. "And we will be proceeding on that basis."
She said that the Order to Proceed was issued by the Governor and by now, the Magistrate would have that in her possession.
Sandiford said given this, they would humbly ask for a date for the commencement of the extradition hearing. She also stated that disclosure will be made to the defence lawyers during the course of next week.
Meanwhile, Sandiford said in relation to the North Carolina request where Hodge stands alone, they will be appealing Justice Albert Redhead's September 17 ruling relating to that. "The AG has prepared a Notice of Appeal for filing, which we expect will be filed during the course of the day."
Magistrate Richards then told the men that under the terms of the extradition treaty, she will have to remand them into custody pending the extradition hearing.
The matter was set for report on November 2, when a date for the restart of the extradition hearing will be set.
On September 17, two months after hearing arguments, Justice Redhead ruled against extraditing the five men wanted in relation to the Florida request and also in relation to Hodge alone for the North Carolina request.
The AG office has not filed an appeal in relation to the Florida request for all five men, but rather will be restarting a new extradition hearing. However, the AG office has indicated that they will file an appeal in relation to Hodge in the North Carolina request.
Justice Redhead had ruled that Senior Magistrate Valerie Stephens' ruling in March that the men be extradited was null and void, false and that the BVI is the appropriate forum for the men to be tried.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
"In my conclusion, I hold, among other things, that the order by the learned Magistrate to extradite the applicants was null and void as it was based on an invalid authority and in addition to the reasons given above, the order of the learned Magistrate to extradite the applicants to the United States of America is quashed. It is hereby declared that the appropriate forum to try the applicants for the alleged drug offences is the British Virgin Islands. I must confess that it is not with any pleasure or gratitude that I have arrived at these conclusions, but that is the law as I see it" the Judge stated in his 38-page ruling in September.
It was 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 was 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.