A HIGH Court judge in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has ruled against the extradition of five men from that country to the United States, citing Trinidad and Tobago High Court judge Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh's ruling in the extradition matter of businessmen Ishwar Galbaransingh and Steve Ferguson.
On November 8 last year, Boodoosingh ruled that Galbaransingh and Ferguson, two United National Congress financiers, should not be extradited to the US.
Galbaransingh and Ferguson are wanted in the United States on a series of charges arising out of the Piarco Airport construction project.
Galbaransingh faces 13 charges, including wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money and engaging in unlawful transactions; while Ferguson faces a total of 82 charges, which include wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.
The offences are alleged to have occurred in the US, T&T, The Bahamas and elsewhere between September 1,1996 and December 31,2005.
British Virgin Islands' judge Justice Albert Redhead cited the Boodoosingh ruling when he delivered a 38-page judgment on the extradition of five men from that country.
Redhead, on September 17, ruled against extraditing BVI businessman Earl Delville Hodge, known as "Bob Hodge"; Customs officer Roberto Harrigan, known as "Tico"; Chad Skelton; Carlston Beazer; and Juan Valdez, who are wanted by the United States in connection with an alleged drug ring.
The men are alleged to have attempted to smuggle cocaine into the US and are wanted in that country.
Harrigan was represented by British Queen's Counsel Edward Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald also represented Ferguson in the extradition matter before Boodoosingh.
When Fitzgerald appeared before Redhead, he said the matter involving the five British Virgin Islands men was "closely analogous to the facts" in the case of Ferguson, Galbaransingh versus the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago.
Fitzgerald said it would be an abuse of process to permit the extradition proceedings to continue seeing that "domestic criminal proceedings predated the extradition requests" and the majority of the evidence is located in the British Virgin Islands.
Fitzgerald said the Galbaransingh and Ferguson matter "emphasises that the extradition of a citizen to a foreign state engages their fundamental constitutional rights".
Redhead, in his written judgment, said he agreed entirely with Fitzgerald's arguments.
Redhead ruled that the order to have the five wanted BVI men extradited was "null and void" and quashed the extradition order.
He ruled that the British Virgin Islands was the "appropriate forum" to try the five accused men.
"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," Redhead said.