UK bankers face extradition in Enron case

Oct 15, 2004 02:00 AM

Three former NatWest bankers should be extradited to the US to face trial over Enron-related fraud charges, a judge ruled.
The three -- Gary Mulgrew, Giles Darby and David Bermingham -- have each been accused of seven counts of "wire fraud" by US authorities. They all worked for Greenwich Natwest, the bank's capital markets division, at the time of the alleged fraud four years ago.

The Britons have been fighting extradition over allegations that they conspired with Enron executives, including the former finance chief, Andrew Fastow, to defraud NatWest by secretly investing in an off balance sheet deal. It is alleged they made £ 1.5 mm each after cheaply selling an interest held by Greenwich NatWest in an Enron entity, and pocketing the difference.
US authorities, who want the men to face trial in Houston, Texas, have based their case on evidence given to the UK's Financial Services Authority. The three each face up to 35 years in prison.

None of the men -- who all deny the allegations-- has been charged in the UK. After the hearing, Mr Bermingham said they planned to appeal to the high court. Should they fail to overturn the ruling, the final decision over extradition rests with the home secretary, David Blunkett. Mr Blunkett will be sent a recommendation from Judge Nicholas Evans, who issued the ruling at Bow Street magistrates court.
"There is a good and proper basis for prosecuting them in the US," the judge said, adding that the process of extradition was necessary in a democratic society. He said he did not consider that it breached the three men's human rights. His order was made under new legislation -- in force since January -- designed to speed up the extradition of suspected terrorists.

The former bankers argue they would have to pay their own legal costs of up to $ 2 mm (£ 1.1 mm), and would probably not be granted bail. They have been told they face up to two years in a federal penitentiary before their case comes to court. During the Bow Street hearing, they argued they should face trial in the UK.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Bermingham said: "To do that would take one phone call to the Serious Fraud Office or the Crown Prosecution Service, and they could bring upon us the might of the UK legal system. We repeat that request to the US government... bring the action here, where it belongs."

Judge Evans had heard from a US federal criminal defence attorney, called on behalf of the former bankers, who said the men "would not get a fair trial in Texas".
Douglas McNabb told the court they would not be able to get documents to prepare for trial if they were behind bars, and would be denied access to computers. He also described the US federal justice system as "incredibly unfair", pointing out that 97 % of people pleaded guilty to federal offences, arguing: "In most cases they would be mad not to after looking at the sentencing guidelines."

Source: The Guardian
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