Crucial bail hearing for NatWest Three


Crucial bail hearing for NatWest Three
Three British former bankers implicated in the 2001-collapse of energy giant Enron will today appear in a US court to learn the conditions of their bail, or whether they will be granted bail at all.

The men, referred to as the NatWest Three relating to the allegations that they defrauded their ex-employer, were accompanied by US marshals as they arrived in Houston, Texas, yesterday at 20:00 BST after being handed over by UK police at Gatwick airport, in one of the UK's most controversial extradition cases.

David Beringham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew, have all protested their innocence but were eager to face trial in the UK, given the fact they are all UK citizens and the supposed victim is a UK company, but under legislation passed in 2003, the US authorities are within their rights to extradite them.

However, the extradition treaty has not yet been ratified in Washington, meaning its implications are not reciprocal.

Earlier in the week opposition and Labour MPs criticised their extradition in an unscheduled Commons debate, despite repeated assurances from the prime minister, Tony Blair, that bail would be granted to the three men.

Mark Spragg, the former bankers' lawyer, has insisted there is no reason for the trial not to take place in the UK.

"That's where the victim is, that's where all the witnesses are, but no, the government insisted on them being extradited on a very unfair, one-sided treaty," he said.

The case was complicated further on Wednesday when the body of a man, now confirmed as city banker Neil Coulbeck, a witness in the case, was found dead by a member of the public in an east London park.

There have been allegations that Mr Coulbeck had been hounded by FBI investigations.

The NatWest Three have been accused of personally profiting £1 million during insider trade dealings with former Enron executives, as well as defrauding their former employer of millions.

They face at least 23 years in jail with no prospect of parole if found guilty.

Mr Spragg has previously explained that they would struggle to afford a decent defence in US courts.

"The US prosecutors are currently suggesting they may get bail but only to live in the immediate Houston area," he said.

"That won't be satisfactory at all because they're going have to put up all their money and property as collateral even to get that sort of bail.

"They won't be able to work in the US so they won't be able to earn money to pay their lawyers so I fail to see how they can get a fair fight on that basis."

Related categories: Management / Business, International / Overseas.

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