Norris loses first round in extradition fight

The 63-year-old retired businessman, who has prostate cancer, is wanted in the US to stand trial on seven counts of fixing the price of industrial carbon products between 1989 and 1998 and two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice. His lawyers argue that price-fixing did not become illegal in Britain until 2003.

It is one of several high-profile cases where British businessmen have attacked the US-UK extradition arrangements for being "lop-sided" and breaching their human rights. They fear they are being targeted under the Extradition Act of 2003, designed to speed up terrorism cases, as part of a post-Enron US crackdown on white-collar crime.

Lawyers for Mr Norris called for a judicial review of the extradition arrangements because the US has not ratified its side of the treaty. Mr Justice Judge yesterday rejected their arguments that the Government's decision to extradite Mr Norris was therefore "unlawful and irrational." He acknowledged that "the extradition arrangements between the two countries are not symmetrical", but added: "The extradition process ... does not require reciprocity or mutuality."

He said: "I accept that ratification by the US failed to take place at the speed which the Secretary of State may have anticipated and others may have hoped." He said it was up to the Home Secretary to decide "how the early ratification of the 2003 Treaty by the US may best be achieved".

US authorities are no longer required to present a prima facie case. US citizens also are able to challenge evidence put forward in an extradition request while Britons lack that right.

Mr Norris's legal team said it would apply for permission to appeal against the ruling to the House of Lords. Alistair Graham, of White & Case, said: "Why should the US hurry now to ratify the Treaty when it already enjoys all the benefits of the new arrangement?"

Proceedings in a separate appeal against Mr Norris's extradition have been suspended until a decision is made in the case of the NatWest three who lost their High Court challenge on Tuesday but vowed to appeal to the House of Lords. It could take months until Mr Norris's case is heard.

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