Extradition was a way out

Austin 'Ozzie' Knowles.

A lack of proper health care and poor conditions at Fox Hill prison are what led alleged drug trafficker Austin Ozzie Knowles to withdraw his application to the Privy Council and be extradited to the United States on Friday, according to Knowles’ chief council Damian Gomez, QC.

“Well, Fox Hill (prison) is not a very comfortable place to be,” Gomez explained.

“He was being denied proper health care and the conditions are really poor there. He was suffering from an imbalance in mornings where he couldn’t stand without feeling disoriented. There are one or two other respiratory issues.

“But the conditions in maximum security are really horrendous. He was sharing a cell with two other people, when a cell is really only fit for one person. There’s a lot of overcrowding. They don’t have their full complemented staff so he wasn’t getting exercise on a daily basis or even every other day basis. Some days the waste was not cleared out, so it’s been less than a Holiday Inn experience.”

Knowles is now in the custody of United States (U.S.) officials, after being extradited from The Bahamas on May 4.

According to a statement released by The Bahamas’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs late Friday evening, Knowles was turned over to U.S. authorities “to face charges of drug smuggling”.

The statement read:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Bahamas reports that, pursuant to the Extradition Act 1994, Bahamian national Mr. Austin Knowles was turned over to U.S. authorities today, 4 May 2018, to face charges of drug smuggling.

“Mr. Knowles is now in U.S. custody in the United States.”

According to Gomez, Knowles instructed his legal team to withdraw his application for special leave with the Privy Council and they complied.

Gomez said Knowles is expected to be arraigned early this week, where his U.S.-based legal team will take over the case.

No stranger to both the Bahamas and U.S. penal systems, Knowles has been fighting extradition to the U.S. since a habeas corpus was first issued for him back in 2001.

Last October, the Court of Appeal (COA) denied Knowles, along with Nathaniel Knowles; Shawn Bruey (aka Sean Saunders); Edson Watson and Ian Bethel, the opportunity to challenge an order for their extradition. The court however, stayed its decision for two weeks to allow the men to petition the Privy Council directly.

All five men have been in custody since the October 23, 2017 ruling and were on bail for 12 years prior.

The other four men have opted not to withdraw their applications to the Privy Council and remain on remand at The Bahamas Department of Corrections (BDOC).