BELIZE has been making headlines in the Slovak media recently, thanks to the arrest there on July 11 of Slovakia’s most wanted man. Karol Mello, who is accused of several serious crimes, including a double murder committed near Bratislava in 2004, was arrested on the Caribbean island of San Pedro where he had apparently been living for several months. Despite initial attempts to extradite Mello to Slovakia, the 42-year-old will probably remain in the Central American country until August 10, when a Belize court is scheduled to consider his case.
In a ruling on Tuesday, July 17, the Supreme Court in Belize halted Mello’s extradition to Slovakia, local TV channel Belize News5 reported on its website, quoting Godfrey Smith, Mello’s lawyer. Mello himself remains in detention in the capital, Belmopan.
“Based on this decision my client cannot be relocated from Belize within at least the upcoming 28 days,” said Smith, a former minister of defence, foreign affairs, tourism and information, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
He added that Slovakia does not have an extradition agreement with Belize and his client cannot therefore be extradited.
According to Smith, if Belize wants to cancel the permanent residence permit granted to Mello and deport him, then it must first allow his lawyers to defend his interests, TASR wrote.
However, on July 18 another website, 7newsbelize.com, reported that an expulsion order had already been issued and served on Mello. The website reported that the order was issued on July 16 and that it was not clear why the government in Belize had not immediately acted on it.
Mello has spent several years evading arrest since being accused of ordering a botched gangland hit which left a woman and young boy dead in Most pri Bratislave in 2004. He was apprehended in Poland in 2010 and extradited to Slovakia, but later released from custody by the Slovak courts in 2011 and immediately went on the run again.
The Slovak Interior Ministry is receiving regular reports on how the situation is developing in Belize, said Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, as quoted by the SITA newswire on July 25.
“As soon as Karol M. is questioned [by the court], I believe that he will go again into the hands of the police, which can then extradite him,” said Kaliňák.
Earlier in July Kaliňák admitted that there is a possibility that Slovakia will not manage to get Mello back. But he added that “we do not want to allow this to happen and believe that [his return] is only a matter of time”, SITA reported on July 18.
Kaliňák said that Slovak bodies could not predict how their counterparts in Belize would proceed since they do not have a detailed knowledge of Belize’s legal system.
“However, we cannot say that Belize [authorities] have been trying to procrastinate; on the contrary, they were very active,” Kaliňák said, as reported by SITA.
Kaliňák refused to comment on the reported court decision to halt Mello’s extradition, saying that the Slovak authorities had not been officially informed by Belize of any such decision.
“We will consider this action successful only when the person suspected of committing several crimes is back in Slovakia; until then this operation is unfinished,” Kaliňák stated, as quoted by SITA.
Smith, Mello’s lawyer in Belize, claims that his client was detained illegally and said Belize has yet to formally charge him with any crime. According to Belize News5, Mello has been granted permanent residence in Belize and lives there with his wife and two children.
According to Smith, Mello has not been officially informed of why he is being detained or why Slovakia has asked for his extradition.
Referring to Belize sources, TASR reported that in the emigration questionnaire Mello did not respond truthfully to questions about any previous criminal prosecutions.
Kaliňák has said he does not intend to travel to Belize or become personally involved in the extradition process.