THE hoteliers Stanley and Beatrice Tollman were accused by the US Government yesterday of using delaying tactics to avoid fast-track extradition on suspicion of fraud.

Since their arrest two years ago in connection with an alleged ?50 million scam, they have repeatedly raised fresh arguments, causing indefinite delay, the High Court heard.

Fast-track procedures laid down by Parliament have become so prolonged that the couple, both in their 70s, have yet to be formally identified as the Tollmans.

The claims against the pair, who have run a global luxury hotel and travel business from the UK since the 1970s, were outlined by Alun Jones, QC, counsel for the US, yesterday.

The Tollmans are poised to follow the NatWest Three for trial in the US under a controversial law allowing American prosecutors to demand suspects from Britain without producing evidence.

The couple claim they are victims of abuse of process. The Americans originally applied for their extradition under longstanding arrangements where the British courts had to be pursuaded there was a case to answer. In January 2004 new streamlined measures came into effect. The US withdrew its request for the Tollmans in April 2004, then quickly asked for them again under the simpler arrangements. The Tollmans were bailed by Bow Street magistrates that August.

The US accuses Mr Tollman of a large-scale fraud against banks involving the collapse of his US motel companies, but he insists he was only a passive investor in the business.

Mr and Mrs Tollman are together accused of secreting money from the US taxman in Guernsey, but they point out that the supposedly hidden bank accounts were declared on tax returns.

Mr Jones said that Parliament had laid down a timetable for fast-track extraditions. Courts must fix a hearing date within two months unless suspects persuade them to delay in the interests of justice.

?What has happened in this case is that, every two months or so, somebody goes back before the . . . judge,? Mr Jones told Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, and Mr Justice Cresswell.

The Tollmans have claimed a right to see documents from British and US Governments, to cross-examine an American prosecutor and have raised the prospect of calling ministers as witnesses.

?There has been successive and constant fixing of later dates,? Mr Jones said.

Fast-track rules require that the district judge should check that extradition documents sent by the Home Secretary are proper. ?(The judge) must decide if the person appearing before him is the person specified in the request,? Mr Jones said. ?Two years after Mr and Mrs Tollman?s arrest, the court hasn?t even answered that question: identity.?

The hearing continues.
 
 

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