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Protracted delays in starting the case of a Chinese national accused of money laundering has forced the Court of Appeal to grant him bail.

Delivering their decision following a virtual hearing yesterday morning, Appellate Judges Mark Mohammed, Gillian Lucky and Mira Dean-Armorer granted $1 million in bail to Xiaofu Hu.

Hu was arrested by police after US$213,500 in cash was allegedly found hidden in his suitcase as he was set to board a flight at the Piarco International Airport in July 2019. Hu, who was charged under the Customs and Excise Act for exporting prohibited items, was denied bail by a magistrate and then by a High Court Master.

When Hu’s lawyers attempted to appeal the Master’s decision in September, last year, they were rejected by the same panel of the Court of Appeal. The panel maintained its decision when the case came up for review in January.

However, when the appeal came up for hearing yesterday, Mohammed noted that there had been little progress in Hu’s substantive case in the Magistrate’s Court since the last status hearing.

“We anticipated positive and pro-active advancement of this matter,” Mohammed said, adding that failure to progress the case was a material change in circumstances required to reconsider previous decisions to deny Hu bail.

Mohammed said the delays in the case were not due to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) but rather because of issues with retaining a translator for the hearings.

As part of the conditions of his bail, Hu was ordered to report to police three times per week and to surrender his passports.

Hu’s lawyer Henry Chase claimed his client only had a Suriname passport as he had given up his Chinese nationality to secure citizenship from the South American nation.

Hu is also being represented by Ramnanan’s brother Navindra Ramnanan. Nigel Pilgrim represented the DPP’s Office.