Drug charges await Guyanese man in US

Stabroek News
April 24, 2003

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(Trinidad Express) The extradition hearing of Leon Paul Williams, 41, a Guyanese national wanted in the United States on drug charges, was adjourned to May 5 on Tuesday, following testimony by two witnesses for the State.

Williams was arrested at Hilton Trinidad, St Ann's, on November 10, 2000, following an investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

He was initially arrested by local authorities, on behalf of US law enforcement officials, on a seven-count indictment.

Williams was then taken before Deputy Chief Magistrate Deborah Thomas-Felix to face extradition proceedings in relation to drug charges.

But Williams challenged the charges and, on May 3, 2001, the State discontinued proceedings against him.

As he was about to leave the court, he was re-arrested and informed that fresh extradition proceedings were to begin against him, this time with two charges, namely conspiracy to traffic narcotics between June 1993 and January 1997, and trafficking narcotics over the same period. This action was challenged by Williams' attorneys, who argued that his re-arrest was an abuse of process. On November 22, 2001, Williams' attorney, Rajiv Persad, filed a motion and it was heard by Justice Mira Dean-Armorer in the Port of Spain High Court.

After hearing arguments from Williams' battery of attorneys, led by Desmond Allum SC and including Douglas Mendes and Persad, and the State, represented by David West, Justice Dean-Armorer ruled in favour of the State, citing that, "In the instant case, the balance weighs in favour of the public interest in having serious crimes tried. However, should the prosecution persist in the pattern of discontinuance and re-arrest, the scale may be re-aligned against the prosecution."

During the hearing on Tuesday, Allum and Persad asked Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls to exclude certain bits of evidence that were being tendered by the State.

McNicolls, however, overruled the defence arguments and allowed the evidence to be recorded.

Gerard Thompson, Director of Legal and Marine Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Cheryl Mendonca, Administrative Officer V at the Ministry of the Attorney General, gave evidence on Tuesday, following which the matter was adjourned. Williams remains on $750,000 bail.

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