Three British bankers may be extradited to the United States to face Enron-related fraud charges, the High Court ruled on Tuesday in a ruling that was the first test case of laws introduced to speed the transfer of suspected terrorists.
The bankers - David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby, former executives at Greenwich NatWest, a unit of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group - had argued that because the majority of the reported offenses took place in Britain any trial should be held here and that their deportation to the United States would contravene European human rights laws.
The High Court ruled, however, that it would be "unduly simplistic to treat the case as a domestic English affair" and dismissed their application for a full hearing.
The three had already appealed to a lower court, seeking to overturn a government decision to grant the request from the United States government for their extradition in May.
Shami Chakrabarti, a spokeswoman for the rights group Liberty, said the case highlighted the misuse of the 2003 extradition act, which sharply reduced the evidence required from United States officials seeking to extradite suspected felons.
The judges did agree to the three men's request to certify that the case raised issues of general public importance - the first step toward seeking leave to appeal to the House of Lords, Britain's highest avenue of appeal. Lawyers for the three men must lodge an appeal within 14 days.
The three men, all British citizens, were charged in the United States in 2002 with bilking National Westminster Bank of $7.3 million; they each face seven counts of wire fraud. They are accused of advising NatWest in 2000 to sell part of an Enron business it owned for less than the stake was worth, in a plan supposedly devised with Andrew S. Fastow, the former finance chief of Enron, and his colleague, the managing director, Michael Kopper.
The three men then left NatWest, bought into the firm themselves and sold it off for a much higher fee, each pocketing about $2.6 million, according to prosecutors.
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