MIAMI — In secretly recorded conversations, a former FBI agent said he routinely arrested Bahamian criminal defendants in South Florida and unlawfully sent them back to their homeland on commercial airline flights without any formal review of their cases in U.S. courts.
The shocking admissions by retired FBI Agent Gerard "Jerry" Forrester, the FBI's Miami liaison officer in the Caribbean in the 1990s, surfaced this week as part of an unrelated civil court battle in the Bahamas between New York hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon and Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, who own estates in the Bahamas' exclusive Lyford Cay.
According to an affidavit of the audio recordings, Forrester said a Bahamian murder suspect was arrested in Miami, held briefly in jail, placed on a plane and later killed in police custody in the Bahamas. He said the defendant's death was brought to the attention of then-U.S. Attorney Janet Reno.
"I kidnapped him back to Nassau," Forrester said while being recorded last year by former Scotland Yard detective Alick Morrison, who was working as a private investigator for Nygard. "They had him for about 10 hours and the guy wound up dead."
Forrester, a private investigator now working with a former Bahamian cop who was cleared in the 1998 killing of the defendant in police custody, downplayed his statements on the tapes: "Yes, I did say it. Was it true? No. Why did I embellish? Because I brag," he said with a chuckle.
The affidavit, filed in the Bahamas along with Nygard's defamation case against Bacon and others, does not indicate how many times Forrester may have forcibly removed Bahamian fugitives from South Florida. The FBI in Miami declined to comment.
Under federal law, foreign nationals wanted on an arrest warrant issued in their native country have the legal right to challenge their extradition or removal in U.S. courts.
Take the case of Manuel Noriega, the deposed Panamanian strongman, who served 20 years in a federal prison in Miami-Dade for drug trafficking. He was allowed to fight his extradition to France on related money-laundering charges for more than two years before he was flown there in April 2010.
Noriega's lawyer, Jon May, who reviewed the affidavit with Forrester's recorded statements, said the federal government has an obligation to investigate his words and actions to determine if laws and rights were violated.
"Whenever you're taking someone into custody by stealth and delivering them to another police agency in a foreign country, you lose transparency," May said. "They can just disappear into some gulag, and (authorities) can act with impunity."
The undercover investigation that led to the recordings of Forrester began last summer. Then, Nygard hired the former Scotland Yard detective to investigate Nygard's neighbor in the Bahamas, Bacon, whom he was battling over property easement rights in court. According to his affidavit, Morrison's job was to uncover whether Bacon, Forrester and others were behind an unflattering profile of Nygard, the women's fashion designer, that was aired last year by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. The documentary was titled "Larger Than Life."
Morrison would eventually meet Forrester, a consultant for the TV program, who said he worked for Bacon. Forrester also worked with a former Bahamian police officer, Bradley Pratt, on private investigations in the Bahamas, including Lyford Cay. Forrester and Pratt had become close during their law enforcement careers.
Morrison posed as an investigator for a purported British fashion company that feared Nygard as a competitor and sought to hire Forrester to find out how he had dug up dirt on Nygard for the TV documentary. The evidence was eventually used for the defamation action filed by Nygard this week in the Bahamas.
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