In the Media

British businessman will be extradited to US next week

PUBLISHED September 9, 2006

Jeremy Crook, a former European director of Peregrine Systems, an American IT company, will be extradited to the US next week.

He will be flown to San Diego by US marshals on September 15 and held at a detention centre until his trial begins in April.

Mr Crook is accused of participating in a billion-dollar fraud at Peregrine, which collapsed in 2002 after irregularities were discovered in its accounts. The company was later acquired by Hewlett-Packard.

Mr Crook, 53, denies the charges. If found guilty, he faces up to 85 years in prison.

John Ashcroft, then US Attorney-General, has described the fraud as a "massive conspiracy that had at its core one corrupt goal: to hit the numbers quarter after quarter".

Mr Crook is the latest in a string of British businessmen sought by the US under controversial laws that allow fast-track extradition without the need for US prosecutors to prove their case in court.

But unlike the three former Natwest bankers extradited to Texas to face trial on Enron-related fraud charges in July, Mr Crook has never contested his extradition.

He had planned to fly to the US on his own but was told by a British court that since former home secretary David Blunkett had signed his extradition order, he must go through the full process.

Mr Crook's lawyer said his client turned down the opportunity to appeal because it would have been futile in the light of the current controversial
arrangements between Britain and the US.

The Natwest 3 - Gary Mulgrew, David Bermingham and Giles Darby - had fought a high-profile court battle against their extradition. Their campaign attracted support from Liberty, the civil rights body, and the Confederation of British Industry.

The US authorities are also seeking Ian Norris, the former head of Morgan Crucible, an engineering company. Mr Norris is awaiting a hearing at the High Court in October, when he will contest his extradition to the US on price-fixing charges.

John Irving, an oil trader, also faces extradition to the US on charges that he helped channel millions of dollars to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Mr Irving denies wrongdoing.

Extradition lawyers have warned that the US government may step up its efforts to extradite British businessmen before Parliament reviews the treaty in October.