THE war on terror is claiming some unexpected victims. This week three former investment bankers from the City of London fell foul of the Extradition Treaty agreed between Britain and the United States in 2003. At the time it was negotiated this treaty was intended to enable the United States to lift suspected terrorists from Britain to America without having to produce any evidence against them. The investment bankers are not suspected of terrorism; rather, they have been caught up in the fringes of the Enron scandal in the United States and the prosecutors there want them for alleged fraud. The three men took their case to the High Court in London, arguing that the alleged fraud, which they deny, took place in Britain and should be tried there rather in the United States. The judge disagreed, ruling that there was “a significant US dimension” to the case.
There are two substantial aguments against the view taken by the judge. The first is that although the alleged fraud was against NatWest bank, where the three men worked, that company has never brought charges. Nor has any of the relevant UK authorities such as the Crown Prosecution Service, the Financial Services Authority and the Serious Fraud Office.
The second is that although the Extradition Act of 2003 was intended to be reciprocal, the United States has not yet signed it and therefore Britain does not have the same ability to seek extradition of wanted persons as America enjoys. This one-sided legislation should be put on one side until Washington keeps its side of the bargain and, furthermore, there should be a clarification of whether its application should be confined to terrorism cases or can be used more widely as this week's judgement seems to suggest. There should not be one law for American prosecutors and another for British defendants.