Thursday, July 13, 2006
The so-called "NatWest Three" -- David Bermingham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew -- will be arriving in the United States to face charges related to one of the many Enron deals in which the company's former CFO, Andrew Fastow, and other executives sought to enrich themselves through the various side-deals they set up ostensibly to help Enron's finances (see AP story here). The extradition has become a major political issue in Great Britain, with the House of Commons set to debate the issue of sending British citizens to face charges in the United States for conduct that occurred primarily in their home country but the government decided not to pursue an investigation of them, deferring to federal prosecutors in Houston. The extradition treaty that authorizes the transfer of the defendants from their home country was negotiated in the wake of the September 11 attacks as a means to facilitate quicker transfers, but like so much legislation adopted in response to one event it is now being applied in a far different context. While Parliament has ratified the treaty, the Senate has not yet voted on it, creating the odd situation that a similar request for extradition under the treaty from the U.K. would not have resulted in Americans being sent there to face charges.
The three defendants are scheduled to appear for a bail hearing on Friday, July 14. Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that the federal prosecutors will not oppose bail, likely a response to pressure from the British government that has been skewered over the issue (see Financial Times story here). A key issue the court will have to decide is whether to permit the defendants to return to England while awaiting their trial. Even if they are, the controversy over their extradition will continue. (ph)