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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Bosses decry US extradition law
Giles Darby (left), David Bermingham (centre) and Gary Mulgrew (right)
The three former NatWest bankers face prosecution in the US
UK business leaders have criticised "anomalies" in extradition laws, which they say have left three men facing Enron-related fraud charges in the US.

Employers' groups have signed a letter to Home Secretary John Reid describing the laws applying in the controversial case as "unequal and insidious".

The three former NatWest bankers are to be extradited to the US after losing a two-year legal battle last week.

The laws leave British firms in the US particularly vulnerable, it is argued.

Cause celebre

The existing laws are iniquitous, the letter says, because US officials have to offer less proof of wrongdoing than their UK counterparts.

The campaign has been triggered by the case of David Bermingham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew, who each face seven counts of fraud after being involved in a controversial deal with Enron.

Our arrangements deprive British business people of the opportunity to defend themselves, under UK jurisdiction
Letter sent to Home Secretary John Reid

The trio have always maintained their innocence and argued that they should be tried in the UK.

They have amassed huge legal bills fighting their extradition orders and have not yet been able to secure bail, unlike many senior former Enron executives who have been prosecuted.

Outgoing CBI boss Sir Digby Jones said recently that the trio risked being treated like "aliens" under current extradition laws, not having the same rights as US citizens in a similar position.

'Stripped of rights'

Sir Digby Jones, Institute of Directors' chief Miles Templeman and Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti have all put their name to a letter criticising current extradition arrangements with the US.

They say the treaty, agreed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, is unbalanced and does not give British nationals enough protection.

This whole situation is a total mess and places the British community in a particularly vulnerable situation
Miles Templeman, Institute of Directors

"We are extremely concerned that the current arrangements for extradition to the US expose British business people to unique and serious risks," the letter says.

"Not only are our arrangements non-reciprocal but they deprive British business people of the opportunity to defend themselves, under UK jurisdiction, against allegations of conduct which patently should be heard in a UK court."

The Home Office says British nationals are adequately protected under existing laws, designed to strengthen cross-border co-operation in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

But opposition parties want to amend a bill currently going through Parliament to enshrine the presumption that British nationals accused of committing crimes on home soil should be tried in their own country.

Mr Templeman said concerns about the issue could make British firms think twice about doing business in the US.

"This whole situation is a total mess and places the British community in a particularly vulnerable situation," he said.




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