Mongolian spy chief loses extradition case

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mongolian spy chief Bat Khurts, who claims he was lured to the UK so he could be arrested and jailed under a European Arrest Warrant, can be extradited to Germany, a judge ruled today.

Khurts, 41, is fighting extradition over claims he was involved in the kidnap, false imprisonment and return of a Mongolian national suspected of murdering a government official.

His lawyers said he would appeal against today's ruling by District Judge Quentin Purdy at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Khurts' legal representatives claimed during the case that Khurts, head of the executive office of Mongolia's National Security Council, should not have been detained as he was covered by diplomatic immunity.

His lawyer, Alun Jones QC, told the court that Khurts was on official government business which protected him from arrest.

The legal team claimed he was duped into coming to the UK so he could be arrested and jailed under a European Arrest Warrant and extradited to Germany at the behest of the German government.

However the judge said Khurts did not have immunity either as a member of a special mission or as a high official per customary international law, and that extradition should proceed.

Mr Jones had told the hearing that Khurts was told he was coming to the UK for high-level Government talks on a new era of intelligence co-operation relating to Muslim fundamentalism.

But instead, as soon as his Aeroflot flight touched down at Heathrow Airport last September, he was handcuffed and arrested.

Mr Jones said Khurts was a senior civil servant representing his government and was therefore covered under the Special Missions Convention which granted him immunity from detention and arrest.

It is alleged he was involved in the kidnap of Enkhbat Damiran from France, driving him to Berlin, drugging him and flying him back to Mongolia.

Mr Jones accused the UK authorities of deliberately tricking Khurts to facilitate his visit to the UK so he could be arrested.

He was granted a business visa for his visit in which he was to have talks with the UK's National Security Adviser, Sir Peter Ricketts, and his strategy and counter-terrorism director, William Nye, Mr Jones said.

Khurts claims the Government enticed him to the UK, knowing that there was a European Arrest Warrant against him which dated back to 2003 and of which he was unaware.

The warrant related to the kidnap, false imprisonment and repatriation of Mongolian national Mr Damiran, who was wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of the Mongolian Infrastructure Minister Zorig Sanjasuuren.

The judge said the Mongolians had genuinely wanted Khurts to visit London for mutual security issue discussions, and the British Ambassador, it would seem, shared that view.

But once an official at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) became aware of the visa application and tied this in with the outstanding warrant, matters changed.

The judge said: "I have no doubt the issue of a business visa was deliberately to avoid/deny any claim of diplomatic immunity.

"Similarly I have no doubt the 'persistent' calls from the British Embassy over Bat Khurts' travel itinerary was to ensure Soca would be free to ensure an arrest in the UK with minimum fuss."

However he could not find any basis for finding improper conduct by any British officials amounting to "manipulating" the court's process in the exercise of enforcing cross-border criminal justice, for "really serious crime by whomsoever committed".

The judge said Khurts was travelling on a Mongolian diplomatic passport, with a business visa, as opposed to an exempt (diplomat) visa.

The judge said: "To my mind it is clear the Mongolian authorities thought Bat Khurts was travelling with full immunity... Equally clearly, the UK authorities, once aware of the European Arrest Warrant, most certainly did not regard the trip as attracting any immunity from arrest."

He said Khurts' trip was not a special mission, and, though a very senior official, he was not a government minister, which in each successful immunity case had been a fact.

"Nor is he engaged specifically or at all in foreign affairs but matters of security or special forces interests (as he put it in evidence).

"Accordingly, I find I must reject the claim of immunity as a high official on the facts before me."

Remanding Khurts in custody, the judge said any appeal must be made within seven days. He would be removed under the warrant within 17 days from today.

Lawyers for Khurts said the Mongolian Ambassador had been in court and also Khurts' wife, Sanaa.

Solicitor Duncan Macdonald said: "We are appealing this matter."