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Griffith: No requests from US to extradite anyone

By Mark Bassant CCN Senior Multimedia Investigative Journalist

TWO key Cabinet ministers yesterday denied receiving any request from the United States government to extradite anyone in connection with the $644 million cocaine bust by US Customs in Norfolk, Virginia, on December 20.

“We have received no such information from the US authorities on any such extradition matter and neither any official who is involved in any intelligence agency at this time has any knowledge about that,” National Security Minister Gary Griffith told the Express yesterday. In fact, he said if provisional warrants were to be issued, he would definitely have been in the loop since the Central Authority would then pass on the arrest warrants to his ministry, which would then execute them with the help of local law-enforcement officers.

“I think I would be part of that circle being involved. As of this time, we have no such knowledge. I think it might also involve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and maybe the Central Authority that will then fall under the purview of the Attorney Gene­ral, but as of this time the Ministry of National Security still has no knowledge of any such request and I am sure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the dark,” he said.

There are cases where the US State Department can make a direct request to the Central Authority as well, he added.

“As of now, we have received no diplomatic note on this matter and that is where it stands,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran, when he spoke at the tea break in Parliament yesterday.

The Guardian, Newsday and CNC3 have reported the US Department of Justice had issued a diplomatic note to T&T’s Foreign Affairs Ministry for provisional warrants to be issued for three suspects described as “businessmen”. The reports further claimed the diplomatic note was to be forwarded to the Central Authority, which falls under the Ministry of the Attorney General, who would then issue the provisional warrants for the three suspects.

Dookeran said, “These matters are dealt with within a prescribed formula and we will do so if have to, but we have received no such note.”

High-ranking sources close to the investigation said had such a document been sent, it would have had to pass through the United States Embassy for the Charge D’Affairs to sign off on, before being sent to the Trinidad and Tobago authorities.

Well-placed sources at other agencies also indicated not even the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had any knowledge of such a note being sent by the US State Department.

Contacted yesterday, public affairs officer at the US Embassy in Port of Spain Alexander McLaren said, “I cannot comment on the investigation and I have been getting a lot of calls about this.” McLaren, however, indicated the protocol was that matters of this nature would have to pass through the US Embassy.

The DEA and other local intelligence-gathering agencies are continuing their investigation into the suspects here wanted in connection with the drug bust.

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