Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One more Tony Blair loose end

Apparently the NatWest Three are taking a plea bargain, as soon as today in Houston. They had little choice. Read this Houston Chronicle report for a recap of how they were screwed by the UK government: testimony given voluntarily to a government agency, and leading to no action, passed on to the US government and then used as the basis of a criminal indictment which was then pursued by extradition under anti-terrorism legislation, with a trial in Houston where the mere mention of Enron is prejudicial, and trial preparations that were dragging on and on with little prospect of cooperation from UK witnesses that the three would need. So at this point, little option but to take a plea, hope for a short sentence, and get home. With Gordon Brown's run of luck, some aspect of the deal with likely rebound badly on him.

UPDATE: It's confirmed. A guilty plea on one count of wire fraud (e.g. the fact that some of the e-mails or faxes crossed American wires) and 37 months jail time -- with possibility of smaller time if they can serve it in the UK and benefit from UK parole rules.

FINAL UPDATE: Tim Worstall explains why the procedures seem a bit dodgy even with actual terrorist suspects, and Martin Wolf (FT) goes even further than we would in describing the dilemma facing the three as judicial torture.

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