Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The on-the-runs and the Nat West Three

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we're hoping to devote a few more posts to the case of the Nat West Three and the related case of Ian Norris (who we suppose could be called the Morgan Crucible One). A bit of background on both cases here, but the essence is that all four face extradition from Britain to the USA for alleged financial crimes, yet the extradition would be done under an anti-terrorism treaty that was legislated in Britain but never ratified in the USA [GUBU has lots more on the Nat West case]. Furthermore, in the case of the Nat West Three, the alleged crimes were committed in Britain and only peripherally relate to the collapse of Enron, the thread that led to the allegations -- yet the trial would be in Houston before a Texas jury eager for furrin scapegoats for their home-grown scandal.

All this is by of introduction to a story in Tuesday's Times of London which notes another embarrassing aspect to the one-sided extradition treaty: while the Home Secretary chases down white collar suspects at the pleasure of the Bush Justice Department, the US sits on cases of child sex abuse suspects who can't be returned to the UK under existing legislation. Speculating on the reasons for the hold-up in ratifying the treaty on the US side, the Times quotes a "senior US official":

The official said that the problem had been caused by the influential Irish-American lobby, which is worried that the treaty could be used to pursue IRA suspects. Senators are worried about alienating any section of voters before November’s congressional elections. British diplomats have emphasised that, after the Good Friday agreement, Britain has little interest in pursuing IRA suspects.

In fact, since the government was most recently trying to run an on-the-run amnesty through Parliament before they and the Shinners got shamed into abandoning it, this is a perfectly credible position for the diplomats to take. As for the Senate holdup, we hadn't heard a thing about this Irish-American block, though it's fair to say that one luxury of being a Senator is the anonymous hold on pending legislation. More generally, it's another element of the capriciousness of the proceedings against the four that their fate can be linked to US Senate machinations and not the intrinsic merits, or lack thereof, in the case against them.

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