Norris loses US extradition battle but says he will appeal

Lawyers acting for Ian Norris, the former chief executive of Morgan Crucible, have vowed to use all rights of appeal after a magistrates court ruled that he should be extradited to face obstruction of justice charges in the United States.

The obstruction charges against Mr Norris are of "such gravity" that he should be extradited, the court said yesterday. The ruling comes less than five months after the House of Lords rejected the US Department of Justice's central claim of price-fixing against Mr Norris.

The case will now be referred to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. Mr Norris's lawyers will argue that he risks being tried on different charges from those used to gain extradition because American sentencing guidelines allow judges to take into account charges not heard in court.

Alistair Graham, a partner at White & Case, who is acting for Mr Norris, said: "We will be taking up our right to make submissions to the Secretary of State explaining why Ian should not be extradited and will wait for her decision in due course. If necessary, we will of course exercise all rights of appeal."

If the Home Secretary approves the ruling, the appeal would go to the High Court and could end up back in the House of Lords. Because Mr Norris is claiming infringement of his human rights, an appeal could go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Norris has been battling prosecutors for almost five years over claims he colluded with international rivals to fix the price of carbon components used in trains between 1989 and 2000. The US Department of Justice claims the 65-year-old obstructed their investigation by shredding evidence. Mr Norris has always denied any wrongdoing.

The Law Lords ruled in March that Mr Norris could not be extradited for price-fixing because cartel activity was not specifically made criminal in the UK until the 2002 Enterprise Act. But the Lords left open whether the US authorities could extradite him for obstructing justice and referred the matter to the lower court for review. Mr Norris's claim that the obstruction allegations were "subsidiary" to the main price-fixing case was rejected by district judge Nicholas Evans. He also dismissed the claim that extradition would infringe the human rights of Mr Norris and his wife because of the effect on their health.

Mr Norris left Morgan Crucible in 2002 after a battle with prostate cancer. He attended the hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday after illness prevented him from being in court for the Lords' decision in March. Morgan Crucible, which sells ceramic and carbon parts for use in the steel-making industry, and its US subsidiary, Morganite, agreed to pay $11m in fines to settle related anti-competition charges in 2002. Mr Norris was not covered by the settlement and has been fighting the charges since he was arrested in London in January 2005.

The Law Lords' ruling was seen as striking a blow for the UK's business community in its attempts to prevent the United States from using an extradition treaty to prosecute white-collar criminals after three former NatWest bankers were made to face fraud charges related to the collapse of Enron.

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