News Americas, PHILADELPHIA, PA, Mon. Nov. 7, 2011: Yvonne Hinds, the wife of Guyana’s Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, and their son Nikolai potentially face arrest for abduction and contempt of court whenever they return to the United States, if they fail to produce Nikolai’s US born-son in a Pennsylvania Appeals court.
Yvonne and Nikolai Hinds, both of whom reside in Guyana, are accused of violating a Superior court order staying a Family court ruling that awarded them custody of three year-old Marcus Hinds. The Family Court order of October 31 also directed the child’s mother, Elizabeth Hinds, to hand the child over to the father and grandmother in court following a custody hearing.
The Superior Court stay returned the situation to its “status quo ante” pending the outcome of the appeal. Consequently, the child should have been returned to the custody of his natural born mother immediately upon issuance of the stay.
But instead of handing over the child, Yvonne and Nicolai reportedly deliberately fled the jurisdiction with him, without the consent of his mother or the court. They are believed to have travelled to Guyana with the child last Friday night, after their attorney was served with the order of the court.
Monroe county Police informed court officials Friday that officers went to the home of a relative where Mrs. Hinds was staying to serve her with the court order and to enforce the handover, but were informed by Mrs. Hinds’ son-in-law that they had allegedly left Pennsylvania with the child.
An emergency appeal hearing is scheduled for next week. Sources with knowledge of the case say that Elizabeth’s Attorney, Marcia Binder Ibrahim will ask the court for an order for Nikolai and his mother to produce the child in court. If this is not done she will then ask for arrest warrants for the two.
The custody battle began when Nikolai and his mother, Yvonne, jointly filed a petition on September 27, 2011 for custody of Marcus, with the intent of taking him to live in Guyana. The basis was the estrangement from his wife, Elizabeth, and the expiration of his immigration status. Reports are that Nikolai came to the US on a student visa and has been working at JFK Airport as a baggage handler for Delta airlines. His visa has reportedly now expired.
On October 11, Monroe County Family Court Judge Jonathan Mark granted joint custody of Marcus to his parents Nikolai and Elizabeth; to take effect in Guyana. Elizabeth’s Attorney, Marcia Binder Ibrahim, strenuously objected and informed Mark that her client lives in US and did not plan on returning to live in Guyana. She was overruled by the judge, who observers say seemed to have had an agenda and demonstrated prejudice.
Ibrahim subsequently filed suit to dismiss Nikolai’s petition, arguing before Judge Mark that he lacked jurisdiction to award custody of a US born child outside the US and that said custody was awarded without an evidentiary hearing or testimony from the parties.
In response Judge Mark convened a hearing on October 31, and heard testimony from the child’s mother and Mrs. Yvonne Hinds. Nikolai did not testify.
In her testimony, Elizabeth detailed a history of abuse by Nikolai, accusing him of routinely committing domestic violent. She testified that her husband once pulled her out of a night club in Guyana with a gun to her head, and depicted a reckless, trigger-happy husband, who habitually whips out his gun whenever in a confrontation.
Elizabeth told the court of an incident where a gentleman shouted “Sam Hinds is a low life,” referring to the Guyanese Prime Minister, while passing the Hinds’ residence in Guyana prompting Nikolai to pursue him. She said Nikolai then slapped the gentleman in the face with a gun causing the safety pin to unlatch and the gun to go off. The bullet, she testified, shot off piece of the man’s ear. Nikolai was arrested by Police but was allegedly released after his father intervened. Reports out of the South American country indicate that Nicolai was also fingered as an arsonist in a suspicious fire that torched part of Queens College in Georgetown, Guyana but was never arrested.
Elizabeth told the court that she did not want to return to Guyana as she feared that she would be killed and that her father in law is the Prime Minister of a country whose government has been accused of complicity with death squads. At this juncture, she revealed that she has filled for political asylum in the United States.
For her part, Mrs. Yvonne Hinds took to the stand and denied under oath that the incidents to which her now alienated daughter in law testified ever took place. She testified that her son was never involved in any violent crime in Guyana and has no criminal history or record. She has since been accused of committing perjury.
After the hearing, Judge Mark, without offering the legal basis for his decision, abruptly reversed his October 11 joint custody order and awarded custody full of Marcus to his father and grandmother; therein taking him away from his mother and authorizing his removal from the US.
The judge’s ruling caused a dramatic exclamation of collective outrage by persons gathered in the court room to conduct unrelated business. An indignant Ibrahim immediately signaled that she would appeal and requested a stay. Ibrahim told the judge that she feared that the child would be immediately removed from the country, and argued to Mark that he had erred on the law and had acted outside his jurisdiction.
Pointing out that if her client is granted political asylum in the US, Immigration laws would prohibit her from returning to Guyana, Ibrahim asserted that the judge’s ruling may cause her client to be permanently separated from her child as Guyana is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on International Child abduction and has no extradition treaty with the US. However an intractable Judge Mark denied her requests.
Ibrahim last Friday appealed Judge Mark’s ruling and petitioned the Pennsylvania Superior Court to stay his order pending the outcome of the appeals process. In her submission, she alluded to information that the Hinds’ had planned to take Marcus out of the country that very night.
A stay was granted Friday afternoon and immediately served on Yvonne and Nikolai’s Hind and on their attorney, Colleen Mancuso. However the Hinds’ are being accused of evading police officers and completely ignoring the order as they skipped town with the child.
A retired New York Family court judge who reviewed the submissions and rulings on the matter said that the Hinds’ would be in serious trouble if they fail to return Marcus to the US for the hearing next week. She slammed Judge Mark, saying that he lacked jurisdiction and appeared to have based his decision on politics rather than the law.
She posited that the Family Court judge has no jurisdiction to award custody of a United States born child to a none US citizen parent residing outside of the US, especially when the mother is residing in the US and has not been found to be an incompetent parent. She predicted that the Superior court will reverse Mark’s ruling.
Asked what will happen if the child is not returned to the US, the retired judge contended that “Contempt and abduction charges will have to be filed against the child’s father and grandmother, and warrants will consequently be issued for their arrest.” She noted that once charges have been filed the FBI Child Abduction Division will be notified, and the FBI will take over the case. She also said that once arrest warrants are issued both Nikolai and Yvonne Hinds will be arrested if they present at a port of entry to attempt to enter the US.
Observers say that the matter has the potential of evolving into a international abduction case that will prove embarrassing to the government of Guyana.