In the Media

Retired judge suffers stroke ahead of extradition on Mafia allegations

PUBLISHED July 3, 2012

But Colin Dines's son has been put on a flight out of the country to be locked up in Rome's main prison, despite last-minute pleas for him to be allowed to stay and care for his 68 year-old father.

The family's plight has prompted their local MP to call on the Home Secretary to intervene and halt the European Arrest Warrants used in their case.

Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton who has long highlighted problems with Britain's extradition agreements, said: "'This case highlights the woefully inadequate safeguards under the European Arrest Warrant, which means British citizens being whisked away to face rough justice in incompetent and corrupt European justice systems without proper checks.

"It is an erosion of the basic principle of innocent until proven guilty, and makes a mockery of British justice. The case for extradition reform is overwhelming."

The European Arrest Warrant forces countries to give up its citizens to foreign states for questioning or prosecution over even the most minor offences, and can leave them languishing in jail without legal assistance or family support while investigations continue.

Recent figures show that Britain receives a third of all of the warrants issued, and surrendered 11 people - of all nationalities - for every suspect received in return during 2011-12.

In the latest case, Mr Dines, his son Andrew and two of their business colleagues, Andrew Neave and Paul O'Connor, were accused of involvement in a £344million money-laundering operation that was allegedly masterminded by the Mafia.

Officers from Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) arrived at their homes in a dawn raid two years ago, their assets were frozen and magistrates ruled that they should be extradited over claims that their London-based firms "acted as fictitious clients" in a "carousel VAT fraud" in Italy.

The men insist they dealt "impeccably" with Italian companies but that authorities looking into alleged fraud discovered their names on documents and so sought their arrest without investigating further.

Mr Dines, a former criminal barrister who served as a judge for eight years, was due to surrender to Italy on Monday but suffered a stroke on Saturday.

He is now recovering in a London hospital but his son was still forced to board the plane to Rome and is now being kept at Rebibbia prison, on the outskirts of the capital.

Mr Raab wrote in his letter to Theresa May that apart from the compassionate grounds on which the case should be suspended, it also highlights the "glaring flaws" in the arrest warrant system.

He said that no charges have been laid, that the accused could have been questioned in their home countries and that the British authorities have failed to investigate even though the alleged offences took place here.

Mr Raab added that foreign nationals rarely receive bail in Italy and that the country's justice system is dogged by allegations of "incompetence and corruption", and of "squalid" prisons.

The Home Office and Soca both declined to comment on the case.