NatWest trio call for judicial review into SFO's handling of Enron fraud allegation

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Three British former NatWest bankers facing extradition to the US over their alleged involvement in a £4m fraud linked to the collapse of Enron have launched a judicial review against a decision by the British government.

David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby yesterday asked the High Court to review the Serious Fraud Office's decision not to investigate or prosecute them. Mr Bermingham said: "The arguments that the SFO has put forward as to why they can't be bothered to investigate are factually incorrect... We've been trying to get them to investigate for three years but they've run a mile."

He said the three were trying to establish a responsibility on the part of the Government to investigate all cases that happened in Britain.

The three men argue that as British citizens accused of defrauding a British bank, with the alleged misconduct having taken place mostly in the UK, they should be tried in the UK rather than in Texas, the home of the failed energy giant Enron. The three, who all deny any wrongdoing, are alleged to have conspired with two Enron executives, Michael Kopper and Andrew Fastow, to defraud Greenwich NatWest - the investment banking arm of the UK bank - by investing in an "off-balance sheet" Enron subsidiary.

The NatWest three criticised a number of inaccuracies in a letter sent by Robert Wardle, the head of the SFO, which formed the basis for the magistrates' court ruling in October that they should be extradited to the US. The letter assumed that Mr Kopper and Mr Fastow would be prosecuted in the US, when in fact they entered a plea bargain and are no longer defendants, but witnesses.

The SFO said it had not investigated the men because the US authorities "had a stronger call on the matter" as the defendants were already indicted in the US in an investigation already in progress.

Separately, the three have appealed to the Home Secretary to overturn the extradition order. It is a test case of new laws designed to speed up the extradition of suspected terrorists and allow British citizens to be extradited to the US more easily.