Nat West Three denied appeal

Click to follow

Three former National Westminster bankers wanted in America on Enron-related fraud charges were a big step closer to extradition last night after a committee of law lords refused to hear their appeal.

David Bermingham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew - the so-called "NatWest Three" - have seven days in which to apply to the European Court of Human Rights for a stay of the extradition order made last May. Should the ECHR refuse, the three face immediate extradition, first to New York, then on to Houston for trial.

Their case had been expected to challenge the controversial fast-track extradition treaty with the US.

The treaty, made law in 2003, has been attacked by business and human rights groups, including Liberty. They claim it is being deployed by America against business, despite the British Government's insistence that it signed up to the treaty to combat terrorism.

Lawyers for the men, and for the former Morgan Crucible chief executive, Ian Norris, who is also wanted in America on separate charges of price fixing, argue that the treaty is unlawful because it is yet to be ratified by the US. This "imbalance" means arrangements are slanted in favour of the US, they said.

Mark Spragg, the solicitor for the three men, said: "It seems there are now no effective safeguards to prevent people being extradited to America. If anything is done which could possibly offend against US law, anybody in the business community is likely to find themselves the subject of an extradition request which will be granted by England straight away."