In the Media

Prosecutor lay in wait for tours boss

PUBLISHED September 24, 2006

SITTING in his prestigious offices near Buckingham Palace, Gavin Tollman had no reason to believe he was the target of a prosecution in America.

The head of Trafalgar Tours, which provides guided coach holidays and cruises, confidently booked a trip to Bermuda, stopping for two days of business talks in Toronto.

Unknown to him or his lawyers, US prosecutors had filed charges accusing him of large-scale tax evasion via a Channel Islands bank account.

Stanley Okula, an assistant US attorney in New York, had sought to extradite Mr Tollman?s uncle and aunt, the UK-based hoteliers Stanley and Beatrice Tollman, on similar charges. That led to a hotly contested court battle. To avoid being ?burnt? ? as he described it ? a second time, the prosecutor decided to lie in wait for the nephew and arrest him outside Britain.

Anne Molloy, the judge at the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, said that there was overwhelming evidence of America?s ?machinations?.

?The United States authorities attempted to engineer a situation in which Mr Tollman would either be delivered directly to the United States for prosecution or detained in custody away from his home, work and family where he would be under considerable pressure to abandon his rights and surrender to the jurisdiction of the United States to face trial.?

Mr Okula learnt of Mr Tollman?s intended visit to Canada and contacted Ottawa-based officials of the US Department of Homeland Security, a body created to fight terrorism.

A US security official asked Canadian immigration authorities to detain Mr Tollman as soon as he entered Canada and deliver him to the US border. The Canadians agreed. The US official e-mailed them: ?OK . . . let?s do it! You?ve got the info, please call me as soon as you have him and hopefully we can get him back no later than the end of the week.?

Mr Tollman was escorted from his aircraft when it touched down at Toronto. He was handcuffed, taken to a prison and kept there for ten days. America, the judge said, wanted his detention to be ?as unpleasant as possible?.

Only after Mr Tollman hired Canadian lawyers did America launch the extradition proceedings it had tried to avoid.

?Since his arrival here for a two-day business on January 18, 2005, he has been unable to leave the jurisdiction,? the judge said. ?He has been able to work, but not efficiently and without the ability to travel that is vital to do his job well. His wife has joined him here, but had to abandon her own job to do so. She has had health problems while she was here that were difficult for the Tollmans to deal with as outsiders to our medical system.

?Most importantly to Mr Tollman, he has missed his children terribly. He is a devoted father. His children live in London. Mr Tollman has been able to arrange for them to travel to Canada a few times but that is hardly a substitute for the almost daily contact he had.

?A man with less moral fibre, and certainly a man with less personal wealth, would likely have succumbed to the pressure exerted.?