By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
CONVICTED drug “kingpin” Samuel “Ninety” Knowles is seeking $70m in damages from the government for the “emotional, mental torture” he experienced as a result of his “premature” extradition to the United States almost ten years ago.
The claims are made in a pro se motion – made without a lawyer – filed on December 28 in a court in Miami, Florida. The Tribune has obtained a copy of the court document.
Knowles is currently being held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina.
In the motion, Knowles accused Prime Minister Perry Christie, then National Security Minister Cynthia “Mother” Pratt, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell, then Prison Superintendent Elliston Rahming and then Deputy Commissioner of Police Reginald Ferguson of “abuse of authority, political interference and abandonment”.
He alleged that Mrs Maynard-Gibson and Mr Mitchell “evaded the Constitution and bypassed the court” by surrendering him to US authorities for extradition on August 28, 2006, despite him being scheduled to appear for a habeas corpus hearing just one month later.
Knowles further accused government and prison officials of allegedly colluding with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency to execute his extradition.
In reference to Mr Mitchell, Knowles alleged: “I got some information this year that the (former) United States Ambassador John Rood and Mr Mitchell was having meetings on how things will illegally remove me to the United States before he signs the surrender order . . . that is political interference . . .”
Knowles claimed that as a result of his detention in the United States, he has become “blind in my right eye,” something he claimed might not have happened if he had been kept in the Bahamas.
“So everything that has happened to me after the Bahamas; the Bahamian government is responsible for my pain and suffering in this jurisdiction by surrendering me prematurely to the United States jurisdiction,” Knowles said in his petition.
He further asserted that his extradition was in violation of his constitutional rights under the Treaties and International Law and Universal Declaration of Human Rights Freedom and Liberty Provision.
Those sentiments were also expressed in a letter penned directly to Mr Christie dated September 2, 2015, attached in the court filing as Exhibit ‘D’.
“Please Mr Prime Minister, stop taking me for granted,” Knowles wrote. “My family spoke to you and for years your reply has been ‘What do you want me to do, every man must acknowledge his failures?’ What happened to me is factual under your administration, which created history in the Bahamas.”
He added: “I am blind in my right eye as a result of negligence by the US Bureau of Prisons. If I was in the Bahamas as a free man like I should be, I would take care of myself properly.”
“I haven’t slept for years,” Knowles added. “How are you sleeping at night, knowing my violation as a prime minister? I deserve an answer as a citizen of the Bahamas.
“...You cannot put the cart before the horse as what took place in this case, with all the facts on the record that justify my removal.”
Knowles said he is seeking $70m in emotional, mental torture and punitive damages from the government.
According to court documents, the government surrendered Knowles to US authorities on August 28, 2006, just 10 days after former Supreme Court Justice John Lyons had set a fixed date - September 28, 2006 - for hearing Knowles’ pending habeas corpus application.
The Court of Appeal later ruled that the government had erred, saying: “If the Bahamas is to be seen as a law-abiding country, what happened to the appellant in this case should never happen again.”
The Court of Appeal went on to say that the government’s actions were “clearly an egregious breach of the statute and is without precedent in this country.”
In 2013, the Court of Appeal overturned the US government’s bid to enforce a $14m seizure order against Knowles’ Bahamas-based assets.
Anita Allen, the Court of Appeal’s president, in a ruling that was backed by her two fellow judges, found the Supreme Court’s decision to register a 2008 Asset Forfeiture Order against Knowles was “unsafe” because the US government had failed to comply with procedures set out under Proceeds of Crime legislation.
In particular, Justice Allen found that the US government submitted no written request to the Attorney General’s Office for the Forfeiture Order - made in the South Florida District Court - to be registered in the Bahamas. That failed to comply with the Proceeds of Crime (Designated Countries and Territories) Order’s section seven, proving fatal to US efforts to enforce the order against Knowles’ local assets - chiefly his A-1 Car Rentals business, and the vehicles seized from it by Bahamian authorities.