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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 20:29 GMT
FBI questions arrested pensioner
Derek Bond and Derek Sykes
Derek Bond (left) and the Interpol picture of Derek Sykes
FBI agents are questioning a British pensioner held in South Africa on suspicion of being one of America's most wanted criminals.

Meanwhile his family insists it is a case of mistaken identity.

The US law enforcement bureau said it also intends to conduct fingerprint and photo-identification checks to determine if 72-year-old Derek Bond is the man accused of a multi-million dollar fraud in America.

Bristol-based Mr Bond was arrested at gunpoint while in the republic on a wine-tasting tour with his wife.

He is being held in custody in Durban after being detained at the request of FBI officials.

The father-of-three and his family insist it is a case of mistaken identity.

Mr Bond's wife Audrey said: "Of course he's innocent. I've been married to him for 50 years so I know he's innocent."

But the FBI told the BBC it believed the pensioner was Derek Sykes, a man they are looking for in connection with a telemarketing scheme which defrauded people of millions of dollars.

South African police spokeswoman Mary Martins-Engelbrecht said: "As far as I know he gave his co-operation and he is now in custody."

Mary Martins-Engelbrecht
Ms Martins-Engelbrecht said Mr Bond co-operated with officers
Ms Martins-Engelbrecht said a South African court had ruled Mr Bond could be extradited to the US.

But she said the extradition had been put on hold, pending final determination of Mr Bond's identity.

"At the moment he is still extraditable, but we couldn't extradite him because of the claim that he made that he is not the right Bond," she said.

On Tuesday the Interpol website carried an image of a Derek Lloyd Sykes on its "wanted" page.

Mr Sykes is the same age as Mr Bond, according to the website.

Mr Bond's son Peter said: "He is receiving moral support from family, friends and the British consulate. "The South African police are being reasonably helpful and are aware that he is the wrong man.

"The FBI and American embassy, however, are being less helpful and have not even bothered to interview him until yesterday because they were not apparently aware that he was denying the charges, even though he had agreed to extradition."
Gillian Bond, with her brothers Peter (right) and Richard (behind)
The Bond children insist their father is innocent

A spokesman for the British High Commission said diplomats had been in contact with Mr Bond and that the South Africans were treating him well.

"We're encouraging the US authorities to bring this to a speedy conclusion.

"It's frustrating that it's taken so long that he is either positively identified or eliminated," spokesman Nick Sheppard said.

DeAngela Burns-Wallace, a spokeswoman at the US Embassy, said officials were attempting to confirm whether Mr Bond was indeed the wanted man, who also goes by the name Derek Sykes.

"If he is identified as the individual charged with fraud, then he would be extradited.

"If not, then he would be released," she said.





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WATCH AND LISTEN
Gillian Bond, Derek Bond's daughter
"We don't know what he's really supposed to have done"



SEE ALSO:
Profile: Derek Bond
25 Feb 03 |  England
Grandfather 'left to rot'
25 Feb 03 |  England


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