AN AMERICAN prosecutor threatened to parade an elderly woman hotelier in handcuffs in New York unless her husband volunteered to leave Britain to be tried for fraud, a court was told yesterday.
The humiliation was part of a vindictive campaign to pressure Stanley Tollman, 75, into giving himself up to American justice, it was alleged.
Mr Tollman and his wife, Beatrice, 73, who are fighting extradition, claim that the prosecutor targeted Mr Tollman?s son, nephew and dying brother to force him to give himself up.
The millionaire couple, friends of Baroness Thatcher and White House guests of the Reagans, run a string of hotels, owned by Mrs Tollman, in London, Dorset, Florida, Switzerland and South Africa.
Mr Tollman, who built up Trafalgar Tours, an international travel company, is wanted for alleged bank fraud and money laundering. Both of them are accused of large-scale tax evasion.
Although they are subject to fast-track extradition, hearings have dragged on since August 2004 when the United States began its case.
A lawyer for the US Government accused the couple?s legal team of deliberately dragging their feet in yet another ?filibuster?. The couple were excused attendance at their extradition hearing in Horseferry Road magistrates? court, London, because of ill health.
The judge was urged to throw out the extradition claim because the US had been responsible for an ?abuse of process?, vindictively bringing prosecutions against various Tollman relatives in the hope that Mr Tollman would cave in.
The court?s first task was to decide whether there had been an abuse of process.
James Lewis, QC, for Mrs Tollman, said that the threatening behaviour and ?venomous comments? of Stanley Okula, an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York, began after Mr Tollman failed to fly to New York for a preliminary hearing in April 2002.
Mr Lewis said that Mr Okula?s ?conduct exceeds any prosecutorial zeal?. Mr Okula allegedly told Mr Tollman?s attorney that ?if Mr Tollman did not return to the US, he would make Mr Tollman?s life as miserable as he possibly could?.
Mrs Tollman was used as a pawn by the prosecutor, it was claimed. ?Particularly shocking,? Mr Lewis said, ?he threatened in a conversation with a lawyer to make Mrs Tollman take a ?perp walk? in Manhattan. This refers to parading a suspect in a public place in handcuffs, despite her being a rather frail lady of 73 years.? Perp is slang for perpetrator.
Mr Okula tried to seize Mr Tollman?s nephew, Gavin, from Canada but a judge in Toronto threw out the case because of the prosecutor?s ?official misconduct?, the court was told. He is also alleged to have harassed Mr Tollman?s terminally-ill brother, Arnold, who could not speak, see or hear.
Alun Jones, QC, for the US, told the court: ?Mr Okula does not accept all this.? The ?perp walk? allegation was a matter that should be dealt with by a lawyers? disciplinary body or a US trial judge rather than an English extradition hearing, he said. ?The complaints made in this case come nowhere near the threshold for establishing that there is an abuse of process,? Mr Jones said.
He said that there was ?a wealth of evidence? against Mrs Tollman.
The case continues.