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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Enron charge trio facing US trial
Enron building
Enron went bankrupt in 2001
The UK has decided to allow the extradition of three UK bankers facing fraud charges connected to the Enron scandal in the US.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke ruled in favour of their extradition following a judicial review of the case.

The men who worked for NatWest at the time - David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby - deny any wrongdoing.

The trio were "devastated but not surprised" and would appeal, their spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

Such an appeal would have to be made within 14 days and would go through courts in the UK.

Legal battles

Last month the three won a judicial review to challenge their treatment by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which decided not to prosecute them in the UK as there was insufficient grounds for launching a case in the UK.

If the SFO had decided to pursue the case it would have delayed any moves to transfer the men to America, as any UK case takes precedence over foreign ones.

ENRON'S FALL
Oct 2001 Accounts black hole becomes public knowledge
Dec 2001 Enron admits inflating profit, files for bankruptcy
It emerges Enron used a complex web of transactions to hide debt
2002 Criminal inquiry launched
Jan 2004 Ex-finance chief Fastow pleads guilty, accepts 10-year jail term
Feb 2004 Ex-CEO Jeffrey Skilling pleads not guilty to fraud and insider trading charges
Jul 04 Ex-chairman Ken Lay indicted

Mr Clarke was not required to consider the findings of the judicial review.

However, a spokeswoman from the Home Office told Associated Press that a hearing linked to the review would take place in about 14 days' time.

The men left NatWest in 2000, the same year as the deal at the centre of their case, and have continually insisted they did nothing illegal.

But they have said that if they are to be tried, the case should be heard in the UK rather than US as it involves British defendants and the offences they are accused of were allegedly committed against a UK company.

In the past the men's counsel, Alun Jones QC, has accused the US of "cynically" waiting to bring the case until new legislation had been passed.

The new laws, which came into force in January last year, were designed to speed up the transfer of suspected terrorists to the US.

US prosecutors want the men to face trial in Texas, home of energy giant Enron - which collapsed as a result of a major financial scandal.

'Unfair' trial

The men have claimed that if they are extradited and found guilty in the US they could face up to 35 years in jail.

They had argued that extradition would breach their human rights, and claimed that there had been too long a delay in the case and that they would not receive a fair trial in the US.

The men also said they would be unlikely to get bail in the US and so could spend up to two years in a Federal jail preparing their case - and as a result would be unable to get unfettered access to witnesses in the UK.

US prosecutors have accused the men of seven counts of "wire fraud" - illegally gaining money via international banking systems - by using the US banking system.

They are each alleged to have made 1.5m ($2.7m), after selling an interest held by a unit of NatWest in an Enron entity at a cheap price and pocketing the difference.

The US case against the trio is based on evidence they voluntarily gave to the UK's finance watchdog, the Financial Services Authority.




SEE ALSO:
Enron charge bankers win review
07 Apr 05 |  Business
Enron-charge bankers seek ruling
15 Feb 05 |  Business
UK bankers face Enron extradition
15 Oct 04 |  Business


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