US can extradite UK executive, rules court

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The Independent Online

The decision to send a former chief executive of Morgan Crucible to trial and a possible prison sentence in the US rests with Home Secretary after a court ruled yesterday that the businessman should be extradited to face price-fixing charges.

The decision to send a former chief executive of Morgan Crucible to trial and a possible prison sentence in the US rests with Home Secretary after a court ruled yesterday that the businessman should be extradited to face price-fixing charges.

At Bow Street magistrates' court in London Judge Nicholas Evans ruled that it would not be "unjust or oppressive" to send Ian Norris to the US for trial. He is accused of operating an international price-fixing cartel and then covering up his actions. He denies the charges, but if convicted of fixing prices for carbon products with his competitors between 1989 and 2000 he is likely to face a lengthy prison sentence.

The judge dismissed his claims that to extradite him would be oppressive, due to Mr Norris's age and poor health, or unjust. "All Mr Norris's medical history has been sent to America. If convicted and sent to prison, it is said, all Mr Norris's medical needs will be met," the judge said.

Judge Evans also ruled that the alleged offences did fall into the category of being extraditable offences. His lawyers had argued that he could not be extradited because price-fixing did not become illegal in the UK until 2003 under the new Enterprise Act, after Mr Norris's alleged crimes took place. The judge, however, said Mr Norris could be sent to the US on similar charges of conspiracy to defraud.

The ruling could open the floodgates to more extradition attempts against British businessmen and women who thought they were safe from prosecution. Lawyers fear new rules to speed up the extradition process, brought in after the 11 September attacks to fight terrorism, are being used to pursue executives.

Michael Sanders, of Linklaters, said: "This does confirm the real extension of the 'long arm of US law', particularly in cases involving alleged price-fixing cartels. The US is successfully extraditing on charges that have not in the past been seen in the UK as important criminal activity. This was not what the extradition laws were intended for."

The Home Secretary has up to two months to decide on Mr Norris's case. At that point, Mr Norris can appeal.

His solicitor, Alistair Graham, a partner at White & Case, said: "We will take this case to the House of Lords if necessary. We will continue to use every means at our disposal to have the current flawed and unfair extradition arrangements between the UK and the USA reviewed and amended."

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