The Natwest Three
Background^ back to top
The case which more than any other brought the issue of the Extradition Act and the US/UK Extradition Treaty into the public consciousness and onto the front pages of the newspapers. Three British bankers - Gary Mulgrew, Giles Darby and David Bermingham - were accused by US prosecutors in June 2002 of scheming with two senior officers of the Enron Corporation to defraud NatWest Bank (where the three bankers had worked) of $7.3 million.
The 'NatWest Three', as they soon became known in the press, strenuously denied the charges, and NatWest Bank itself never made any allegations against them. The US prosecutors waited until the new Extradition Act had come into force in January 2004 before requesting their extradition.
The Issues^ back to top
The case became a cause celebre because the men argued that since they were three British citizens, who lived and worked in London, and were accused of defrauding a British Bank in London, it made no sense whatsoever for them to be hauled to face trial in Texas, when everything that they would need to defend themselves was in London.
The men took the extraordinary step of suing the Head of the Serious Fraud Office for refusing to investigate their case. They also began a high-profile campaign to change the new extradition law, including by the insertion of a 'forum' clause that would force prosecutors to make the case before the extradition court as to why it would be necessary to extradite someone when the case could be dealt with in the UK. Their campaign was supported by the Daily Telegraph, which ran its own 'Fair Trials for Business' campaign alongside them.
Parliamentary Support^ back to top
The proposed forum amendment was taken forward by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition, but finally voted down on a three line whip by the Labour Government in November 2006.
Supported by Liberty, the NatWest Three became the test case for the new Act. In the High Court, counsel for the Attorney General argued that the desirability of honouring international extradition treaties should always trump the human rights of the individual. The High Court agreed, and the NatWest Three lost their case. The House of Lords (now the Supreme Court) refused to hear their appeal, even though the High Court had certified three points of law as being of public interest.
On the day before their extradition, there was an emergency debate in the House of Commons, brought by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg. Although there was huge support for stopping the extradition, the Government declared itself powerless to intervene, and the men were sent to Texas on 13th July 2006.
Conclusion^ back to top
As they had predicted, the NatWest Three found themselves unable to access witnesses or documents from Texas, and eventually entered into a plea bargain in November 2007, in exchange for a promise that they would be quickly repatriated. They were sentenced to 37 months in prison, and eventually returned to the UK in December 2008, to serve the remainder of their sentences. They were released from separate UK prisons in September 2009.
Whyextradite when both victim and defendant are resident in Britain?
extradite when the crime is alleged to have taken place in Britain?
should British businessmen's conduct be subject to the laws of the US, rather than the laws of the land in which they are based and operating?