NatWest Three get limited bail

20-07-2006

NatWest Three get limited bail
Three British former bankers implicated in the 2001-collapse of energy giant Enron have been given limited bail terms in a US court, with their final bail hearing set for one week's time.

On July 21st the men, referred to as the NatWest Three relating to allegations that they defrauded their ex-employer, will learn their full bail fate. They have already been forced to pay $100,000 (£54,000) to have their passports taken from them and be electronically tagged.

David Beringham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew all pleaded not guilty to the charges of personally profiting £1 million during insider trade dealings with former Enron executives, as well as defrauding their former employer of millions.

Their defences argue that the men need to return to the UK to work so that they can afford the costs of the trial and support their families, something they will not be able to do if forced to remain in the US. The prosecution claims that if they return to England it will spark an entirely new extradition row.

The matter is one of the country's most controversial extradition cases. The Natwest Three were all eager to face trial in the UK, because they are all UK citizens and the company involved is UK based. 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 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 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 having 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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