CBI chief to tackle Clarke over US extradition 'abuse'

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The leader of Britain's largest employers' federation will meet Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, today to lodge his protest at the way the US government is "abusing" an extradition treaty between the two countries.

Sir Digby Jones, the director general of the CBI, is concerned that the treaty, which was signed in March 2003 in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, was being used to target alleged white-collar criminals.

He said about 170 out of 200 cases were business people. Speaking on the fringes of the World Trade Organisation summit in Hong Kong, he said his members were growing increasingly angry at the misuse of the scheme by an "ignorant bully".

"It might be acceptable [to use it] for the bloke who wants to wrap Semtex around his body but is not acceptable for a 62-year-old chief executive with prostate cancer," Sir Digby said, referring to Ian Norris, the former chief executive of Morgan Crucible. "The process of justice is being abused."

Sir Digby said it was unacceptable that people charged with white-collar crimes could be extradited without a full court hearing and end up in remand in a US jail. Under the extradition laws, US authorities are not required to present a prima facie case, meaning that it takes very little for them to make an extradition request, while UK authorities must do so when seeking extraditions from the US, because the US never ratified the extradition treaty.

Sir Digby said he would meet the US ambassador next week.

He cited three cases he said were among the worst examples. Nigel Potter, 59, the chief executive of the gaming company Wembley, went to the US voluntarily and was sentenced to three years in a US prison but has lodged an appeal. He was in solitary confinement for 10 days and his wife will not be able to visit him until January.

Secondly, Mr Norris, who is fighting Mr Clarke's decision to extradite him on price-fixing charges after a landmark ruling at Bow Street magistrates court in June that the US could use the fast-track procedure for non-terrorists. He would be the first Briton be to extradited to face criminal anti-trust charges.

Thirdly, David Bermingham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew, three former NatWest bankers, are fighting extradition to the US over Enron-related fraud charges. A High Court ruling is expected by 21 December.

The Government is due to answer written questions today from Mr Potter's local Conservative MP, Adam Afriyie, who asked about his case, and why the UK-US extradition arrangements are not reciprocal.

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