In the Media

Judge halts US attempt to sidestep extradition

PUBLISHED September 24, 2006

A JUDGE has condemned US prosecutors who set a ?sinister trap? for the head of a British travel business involving a plot to get him over the border from Canada at Niagara Falls, The Times has learnt.

The judge took the exceptional step of quashing a US extradition request for Gavin Tollman because it was an ?abuse of process?. Mr Tollman, head of the coach company Trafalgar Tours, was wanted for tax evasion.

Anne Molloy, a judge at the Superior Court of Justice, Toronto, said: ?Misconduct of this sort cannot ever be tolerated, for to do so is to condone, perhaps even to invite, similar conduct in the future. This is the kind of conduct that offends this community?s sense of fair play.?

In a case that highlights America?s hardline tactics against overseas white-collar crime suspects, Mr Tollman was seized in January last year on leaving an aircraft in Toronto and held at a jail for violent and high-security prisoners to ?intimidate? him.

Unknown to Mr Tollman ? a US citizen but British resident ? America issued a sealed warrant in November 2004 for conspiring to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in a secret account. He denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors avoided seeking extradition from Britain, where similar action against his uncle and aunt, the hoteliers Stanley and Beatrice Tollman, led to a protracted battle. The Canada judgment will be used by the senior Tollmans? lawyers at their next London hearing.

The US originally drafted material to arrest Mr Tollman on a trip to Australia, then tracked him on a journey to Bermuda stopping in Canada. Through the US Homeland Security Department, created to combat terrorism, New York prosecutors liaised with Canadian immigration officials. Their plan was to have Mr Tollman ?turned over? at the Niagara Falls.

?Efforts were made to keep Mr Tollman in a harsh prison setting, away from his family, friends and community, in order to pressure him into abandoning his rights,? the judge said.

Mr Tollman is stuck in Canada, facing the risk of fast-track extradition from the UK if he returns. Clare Canning, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert?s commercial litigation head, said: ?It is refreshing that this Canadian court has drawn a line in terms of the prosecutor?s tactics and behaviour.?

Sir Digby Jones, the former Director-General of the CBI, said last night: ?It is very disturbing that America feels it can impose its methods and its jurisdiction on any country in the world.?

The House of Commons will vote next month on a Lords amendment to suspend the Extradition Act that allows the US ask Britain to surrender suspects without providing evidence.