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Jack is going nowhere – Extradition on hold

Source: Trinidad Daily Express
Former FIFA vice-president Austin ‘Jack’ Warner received a lifeline on his extradition to the United States of America, to stand trial for alleged criminal offences, when the Magistrate’s Court ruled on Monday that the questions raised by Warner in an application pursuant to Section 14 (4) of the Constitution, should be determined by the High Court.

Following a Privy Council judgment on November 17 last year, which ruled against Warner’s case for his extradition to the US be denied on the grounds of violation of his constitutional rights and procedural unfairness, he filed an application with the local court in keeping with Section 14 (4), which states, “where in any proceeding in any court other than the High Court or the Court of Appeal, any question arises as to the contravention of any of the provisions of this chapter, the person presiding in that court (Magistrates Court) may and shall give the party or any party to the proceeding so request, refer the question to the High Court unless in his opinion the raising of the question is merely frivolous or vexatious.”

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, noted this section of the Constitution provides a corridor of opportunity which allows to a person in the circumstances of Warner, to get access to due process even after an applicant like Warner has been before the High Court, Court of Appeal, and before the Privy Council and lost in all instances as was the case with Warner.

Armour, who was speaking during a press conference on Monday, noted that following the Privy Council’s judgment on November 17, Warner raised a number of questions in a judicial review application.

in the spotlight: A picture taken on April 27, 2011, shows then FIFA vice-president Jack Warner speaking in Cartagena. Warner and his family were paid almost US$2 million (£1.2m) from a Qatari firm liked to the Gulf state’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup finals, according to a report yesterday in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. —Photo: AFP
Mark Fraser

“Two of the arguments which were raised by Warner at the Privy Council were arguments known as the specialty arguments-a particular process under extradition proceedings, which is to say that the Attorney General of the State from whom extradition is requested, will sign off on a certificate and will authorize the authority to proceed for the extradition proceedings to continue according to law,” Armour said

He said Warner’s position was that the specialty argument had been violated in that there was no consistency between the offences for which the United States of America wished to extradite him, consistent with the laws of Trinidad and Tobago, because of different arrangements between the treaty to which the United States is party and the domestic law of Trinidad and Tobago, the Extradition Act.

“That specialty argument failed and the certificate by which Warner’s extradition would arise was upheld by the Privy Council in its ruling on November 17, and the Privy Council ruled that the extradition on that ground could proceed.”

He said another argument Warner had raised before Justice (James) Aboud, which failed at the High Court, Court of Appeal and at Privy Council, was that he had not been given the rights of fair procedure.

“Subsequent to the decision of the Privy Council, Warner proceeded to file his application pursuant to Section 14 (4) of the Constitution on March 3, and he listed a number of questions which had to do with the fact that his rights under the Constitution have been violated by the continued efforts of the United States as the requesting State, to have the Government of Trinidad and Tobago extradite him to the USA to stand trial there.

“That application was supported by an affidavit of Mr Warner. There was no other evidence on that application. No other parties filed any evidence, and really, the question as set out in Section 14 (4), was whether Mr Warner had raised issues that required the High Court to address a violation of his constitutional rights in accordance with due process.”

Armour said the only basis on which the Chief magistrate could have declined to accede to Warner’s application was if she found that the arguments raised by Warner were frivolous and vexatious.

“This morning, the Chief magistrate ruled that the questions were not frivolous and vexatious in respect of Mr. Warner’s complaint on the specialty argument, on procedural unfairness, and therefore she has referred those questions to the High Court for the High Court to determine the constitutionality of the request of the United States of America, to extradite Mr Warner to the United States to stand trial on a number of serious criminal offences.

“The Chief Magistrate went on to make findings of facts which disturbed me, and I say that with all due respect because all that was before her was the affidavit of Mr. Warner, and no evidence from any of the parties and no cross-examination of anybody at all. And I’ve been in touch since the decision was handed down this morning, with the legal teams representing the Attorney General and the United States of America.”

He noted that he has spoken with Pamela Elder, SC, one of the lead counsels for the State, and she gave the assurance that she will be meeting with the legal team to review, with some concern, the decision of the Chief Magistrate in so far as it appears there’s justification for the findings of fact which the Chief Magistrate permitted herself to arrive at.

Armour said following the meeting of the legal team, he will meet with them to solicit advice on the steps the Government must take to continue to insist on all persons coming before the court so that justice could be done, to continue to adhere to due process, and in due course, to get the full determination of the High Court, the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago, on Warner’s several applications.

On May 27, 2015, the United States requested the extradition of Warner to face corruption charges. Following his defeat at the Privy Council, Warner vowed to continue fighting the extradition request.