New Labour and the Enron extraditions

Andy Newman


Truly New Labour have excelled themselves, in their obsequious desire to do absolutely anything to please the US government. The only way they could surpass this would be to agree to target the Royal Navy’s Trident missiles against British cities.


It is hard to imagine how Tony Blair sees his relationship with the US – does he dress up in a gimp costume and allow George Bush to lock him in a box?


Let’s see if we can understand this. Three British employees who worked for Nat West are to be extradited to Texas, for allegedly seeking to defraud Nat West bank. The alleged crimes were supposed to have happened in London and Nat West itself says that no crime took place. One of the defendants is a single father with a 10 year old son.


Now the three individuals in question may have been up to some ethically dubious practices. They are accused of advising Nat West in 2000 to sell part of an Enron business it owned for less than the stake was worth, the three men then left Nat West, bought into the firm themselves and sold it off for a much higher fee, each pocketing about $2.6 million, according to prosecutors.


However, under the 2003 extradition agreements, the US authorities do not need to present any evidence whatsoever to the British courts. The US government needs only to outline the alleged offence, the punishment specified by statute and provide an accurate description of the suspect sought. So why did new labour agree to this? Because it helps fight “terrorism” apparently. Oh yeah, but the laws has been used 11 times sine 2003 when it as brought in, and in not one case was terrorism involved.


Home office minister Andy Burnham told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "There is no special relationship in place for the United States of America. The Extradition Act 2003 put into place a relationship with the US broadly comparable to the one we have enjoyed with our European partners previously. That relationship now is much more balanced than it was previously.”


But hang on a minute. There is a difference between the legal system in France and Germany and the legal system in the USA. That is not to idealise the human rights position in European countries, but none of our “European partners” admit to using “extraordinary rendition”, or run camps like Guantanamo Bay.


Ahhh …  but these prisoners are just going to an “ordinary” “US prison.


Ordinary prisons where there are mass beatings of naked prisoners, and the use of un-muzzled dogs? Sounds like Abu Ghraib. But in fact, it was in Chicago's Cook County Jail in 1999.


Ordinary places, like Wallens Ridge State Prison in Virginia that restricted prisoners to just 100 fluid ounces of water a day in November 2005 for all hygiene and drinking purposes, that is handed to them in a plastic bag. They are forbidden from flushing the toilet more than 4 times a day, even when cells have multiple occupation.


Or perhaps Iowa State Penitentiary, where mentally ill inmates are denied medical care.


Or California prisons where male officers are allowed to body search female prisoners. Including: groping “women’s breasts, buttocks, and vaginal areas”


These would be the ordinary prisons where people who commit crimes as a child can be incarcerated for the rest of their lives with no possibility of release.


These would be prisons where you might find people incarcerated for up to two months for simply attending a mosque.  


And if the Americans are so keen to extradite white collar criminals they should stop blocking the extradition of mass murderer, Warren Anderson to India. Anderson, the  chief executive of Union Carbide. Who has been charged with "culpable homicide" under Section 304 Part II of the Indian Penal Code for 8000 deaths following a poisonous gas leak from Union Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal in 1984. Evidence heard in court showed that to save money, the US multinational and its then Chairman Warren Anderson, along with several senior executives, had knowingly and wilfully allowed the setting up of a pesticide plant with seriously flawed design and inadequate safety systems in the midst of a highly populated residential area.




March 2006

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