Alleged international drug trafficker granted Supreme Court certificate

The High Court has finalised the basis on which a British national, who is wanted in connection with a conspiracy to import cocaine and cannabis worth millions of pounds into the United Kingdom, can appeal his extradition to the Supreme Court.

The court ruled last week that it would allow Philip Michael Baron (aged 55) appeal the decision to extradite him to the Supreme Court but delayed formally granting the certificate in order to allow counsel on both sides redact the “question” – a point of law of exceptional public importance - raised by his defence.

In April the High Court ruled that Mr Baron, of Bawnogues, New Road, Straffan, Co Kildare, should be extradited to the UK to face four charges relating to money laundering and the conspiracy to import 39 tonnes of drugs to the UK from South Africa and Costa Rica between 2005 and 2009.

The former hotelier has been in custody since May last year when he was arrested at his home close to the K Club in Co Kildare on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

Mr Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the State, submitted that the Supreme Court should rule on whether it is sufficient that a European Arrest Warrant both specifically assert a link and give a general outline for the basis of the subject person’s alleged involvement in an offence or alternatively set out sufficient alleged circumstantial facts to allow a court to infer a link.

Counsel for the applicant, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, argued that the State was attempting to “steal a march before a single argument had been outlined” by framing the question in terms of a successful submission it had already made during the extradition hearing.

During the hearing the High Court found that it is sufficient for a warrant to clearly set out the allegations against a particular subject and that it was unnecessary for the warrant to provide a statement of evidence held by the issuing state to support these allegations.

Mr O’Higgins submitted that the question should be couched in terms of whether it was sufficient that the information provided in a European Arrest Warrant be in the form of an assertion only and not provide a material basis either directly or indirectly for the involvement of the subject person.

He said that if the question was allowed to be phrased in the manner Mr McGuinness advocated it would allow the State to contend that the High Court had already ruled in their favour on the issue, and he asked that a “more neutral” question be certified.

Mr Justice Edwards said he agreed with Mr McGuiness that the question to be put before the Supreme Court should relate to an order or decision taken by the court.

He said the applicant’s quarrel could be isolated to the part of his judgement where he ruled it was sufficient for a European Arrest Warrant to provide a general outline for the basis of the subject person’s alleged involvement in an offence or alternatively set out sufficient alleged circumstantial facts to allow a court to infer a link.

Mr Justice Edwards said that, as he did not believe the State would be advantaged by formulating the question in the manner it proposed, he would accordingly grant the certificate for appeal to the Supreme Court using the question proffered by Mr McGuinness.

He remanded Mr Baron in custody at Cloverhill and formally ordered that he be surrendered to the United Kingdom on all of the offences covered by the European Arrest Warrant dated April 6, 2011.


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