In the Media

Home Office and legal team at odds over treaty interpretation

PUBLISHED April 3, 2006

More evidence has emerged of Government confusion over the one-way extradition treaty with America that has been used to target UK businessmen. 

A letter has come to light showing that the Home Office and its legal team have differing views on where court cases should be heard when more than one country is involved.

The letter has implications for the NatWest Three, the former bankers alleged to have defrauded the UK bank in a deal with the collapsed US company Enron.

It will also add support to demands that the 2003 Extradition Treaty with America be amended to provide more protection for UK citizens.

In the letter dated July 26, 2005, Home Office minister Andy Burnham strongly supported European Union guidelines that where possible "a prosecution should take place in the jurisdiction where the majority of the criminality occurred or where the majority of the loss was sustained".

Yet, at an appeal hearing for the NatWest Three, government lawyers appear to argue something different.

As part of their bid to stop their removal to the US the NatWest Three argued that the "natural forum" for any trial was the UK. Neither NatWest nor the UK authorities have shown any desire to investigate but the Home Office argued for extradition.

On August 18 its lawyers told the court that arguing about the "natural forum" was "inconsistent with the [UK's] international obligations underpinning the extradition process".

The CBI, Institute of Directors, along with The Daily Telegraph, are calling for amendments to the treaty, which allows the US to extradite without providing prima facie evidence. The UK has no such rights in the US.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The case for a trial taking place where the crime is committed could vary according to the different circumstances. Ultimately, whether an extraditable offence has taken place or not is a matter for the courts."

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