CHIEF Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar yesterday reserved her ruling on the granting of bail for Surinamese national Edmund Muntslag, who is wanted in the United States on allegations of conspiracy to smuggle ten kilogrammes of cocaine into that country.
Ayers-Caesar said she would rule on October 11 on whether to grant Muntslag bail after listening to arguments from State and defence attorneys who presented their case, quoting case laws from the Appeal Court, Privy Council and Supreme Court of Australia for close to 40 minutes.
Defence attorney Keith Scotland applied for bail for the 29-year-old restaurateur, saying that his client had strong ties in Trinidad as he had family here in the form of his mother, aunt and common-law wife, identified as Jessica.
Scotland, along with Asha Watkins-Montserin and Adaphia Trancoso, submitted that his client travelled to Trinidad legally and was arrested while shopping for his five-year-old son at Trincity Mall on August 29.
Scotland said his client is accused of a crime that is bailable in both the US and in this country. He said his client’s passport is now in the custody of the police so he was not a flight risk.
The attorney quoted from Section 12:2 of the Extradition Act and Section 4B of the Bail Act to bolster his argument that his client, although a foreign national, was entitled to bail. He said his client was given a six-month stay in Trinidad and his motives were not opaque when he entered the country.
Scotland said the State has not presented any jurisdictional and factual basis that his client would not appear in court if granted bail or that he would either commit an offence or interfere with witnesses.
He pointed out that his client was a foreign national who could barely speak English and would be remanded with inmates with whom he cannot relate.
In response, specially appointed attorney Jagdeo Singh, who is representing the US in the matter, said that extradition matters are of a special nature and the basis for granting bail in regular proceedings should not be the threshold in extradition matters.
Singh said extraditions are to be placed in a special category, with the presiding adjudicator exercising extreme caution. He added that the warrant for Muntslag’s arrest “smacks of international drug smuggling” as he read judgments handed down both locally and internationally, referring to special caution being placed where there is suspicion of money coming from the proceeds of drug smuggling being involved.
Singh, who along with Israel Khan SC, Rene Charles, Kylene Deosingh and Netram Kowlessar represented the requested State, said that treaties with other countries ought to be considered in deciding to grant Muntslag bail, adding that Scotland presented no proof of an address and any ties to the country of his client.
Scotland quickly responded, saying that Muntslag was a Caricom member and this country also had a duty to the Caricom countries.
He added that the requesting State has not shown that his client is a flight risk and that both the Bail Act and Extradition Act do not speak of any special circumstances needed to grant bail.
During yesterday’s proceedings, there was no translator available for Muntslag, who could hardly speak English.
Attorney Singh said he had contacted both the Surinamese and Kingdom of the Netherlands embassies, but none was available.
He is hoping a translator will be in court when the matter comes up again on October 11.