US bid to extradite Grecian blocked

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South African lawyers for a British spy at the centre of an arms- to-Iraq deal sought yesterday to block his extradition to the United States on a legal technicality.

Paul Grecian, 40, was arrested by Interpol in Johannesburg on 15 December after arriving to spend Christmas with his fiancee. He has been in detention since, fighting efforts by the US to extradite him on charges of conspiracy, bank fraud and violating arms export controls.

Grecian, head of the defunct Ordnance Technology (Ordtec) company that sold an artillery fuse production line to Iraq in the late Eighties, was convicted on similar charges in Britain.

He was acquitted on appeal when it emerged that the prosecution withheld documents showing he used his contacts to provide Britain's security services with information about Iraqi war plans. He featured in Scott inquiry.

Prosecutor Philip Koekemoer made the first formal application yesterday for Grecian's extradition to face charges which arose because he tried to buy components for Iraq from a New Jersey firm.

But his lawyer argued that South African law stipulated that the foreign country involved should approach the minister of justice. In this case, it had been the department of foreign affairs.The magistrate ruled that the prosecution should establish if the extradition request had been passed on to the minister of justice and postponed the case to March 25.