Justin Davenport, Evening StandardEnron-related case means test for new treatyWed Jul 12, 2006 21:58Key NatWest Three witness found dead
Justin Davenport, Evening Standard
12 July 2006
KEY witness in the case of the NatWest Three has been found dead. The dramatic development comes on the eve of the extradition to the US of the three British bankers.
The body of Neil Coulbeck, 53, a former director of NatWest's stockbroking arm, was found in Epping Forest, Chingford, yesterday. There were reports that he had been hanging from a tree.
The Natwest Three - David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby - are accused of an £11m fraud involving collapsed US energy giant Enron, whose former boss died at his home last week.
Told of Mr Coulbeck's death today, Mr Bermingham said: 'It's absolutely terrifying. This has just gone to a completely new level.'
Mr Coulbeck, who returned to Britain from the United States in 2001 to take up the role of head of group treasury for the Royal Bank of Scotland, had been interviewed by the FBI in connection with the case.
The body was discovered by a dog walker at around midday yesterday, a week after he had been reported missing by his wife.
She told police he had left his home in Woodford Green telling her, 'I am going for a walk', but he never returned.
The scene, between a golf course and a wood less than a mile from Mr Coulbeck's home, is cordoned off as forensic officers search the area.
Scotland Yard said detectives from its homicide investigation unit had launched an inquiry under the direction of a superintendent.
A spokesman said: 'The death is being treated as unexplained at this early stage.' But sources say it appears he committed suicide.
The body was decomposed indicating that he may have died shortly after he disappeared from his house on 6 July.
Initial reports said he was found hanging from a tree. Police said today the body was on the ground in woodland when they arrived.
Mr Coulbeck's family said they did not have a statement to make today. He is understood to have two children.
The NatWest Three will be extradited tomorrow to stand trial in Houston-where Enron was based. They have protest their innocence of fraud charges all along and claim there is not enough evidence against them to bring a trial in this country.
But the Government is handing them over under a controversial deal with the US.
The Act under which they are being extradited, originally intended to fight terrorism, allows British citizens to be extradited to the US without American courts having to provide a case for them to answer.
Lib-Dem home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: 'People simply do not understand why three British citizens will be extradited when our own judicial authorities saw no reason to prosecute them here in Britain.'
Hours before he was told of Mr Coulbeck's death Mr Bermingham told reporters of the similarities he saw between his case and that of Dr David Kelly, the UN weapons expert who killed himself three years ago.
He said: 'The Attorney General has finally done a David Kelly and started briefing against us. I am staggered that it has taken them so long. They have finally broken cover and started throwing mud at us from all directions.'
Mr Bermingham said he did not know who the witness was, only that four people had been interviewed by the FBI.
He said: 'What has happened to us pales into insignificance when compared with what his wife will have to live through. It's shocking, absolutely shocking.'
The Yard said their investigation was being led by the Homicide and Serious Crime Command because of their 'resources and expertise'.
It went on: 'We can confirm that officers from Redbridge Missing Persons Unit were contacted last Thursday regarding a man missing from his home address in Woodford Green. It is not yet established if the deceased is connected to this report.
'We believe they know the identity of the man but detailed inquiries are ongoing to confirm this. We are not in a position to discuss further.'
Enron-related case means test for new treaty
July 11, 2006
LONDON -- Three British bankers will be extradited Thursday to face Enron-related fraud charges in the United States, the men and their lawyer said Monday.
Mark Spragg, who represents the trio, said they were scheduled to depart Thursday morning.
"We are going to be put on a plane on Thursday morning, there will be U.S. marshals on the plane," one of the three, David Bermingham, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"We believe we are going to be flown direct to Houston and on arrival there we will be issued with our orange boiler suits, our foot chains and our hand chains and, if we are unable to secure bail--which is increasingly likely at the moment--then we are going to go straight to the federal penitentiary."
On the same day, a British government minister plans to fly to the United States to urge the Senate to ratify the treaty under which the bankers are being extradited. "I want to have the opportunity to explain face to face our frustration at the Senate's delay," Home Office Minister Baroness Patricia Scotland wrote in Monday's Financial Times.
Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby are at the center of a campaign by Britain's business community and opposition lawmakers to highlight what they say is the misuse of a treaty--not yet ratified by the United States--that was purportedly drawn up to bring terrorists to justice.
The treaty lessens the burden of proof in some extradition cases, allowing certain countries--including the United States--to provide "information" rather than evidence that a crime has been committed.
They are called the NatWest Three because they are all former executives at Greenwich NatWest, a unit of Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC. They are the first major test case of the use of the treaty to cover white-collar crime. Several other cases are pending.
The bankers were charged in the United States in 2002 with bilking National Westminster Bank of $7.3 million. They each face seven counts of wire fraud.
They allegedly advised NatWest in 2000 to sell part of an Enron Corp. business for less than the stake was worth, in a scheme allegedly devised with Andrew Fastow, former finance chief of the collapsed Houston energy trader, and his colleague, managing director Michael Kopper.
The three men then left NatWest, bought into the Enron business and sold it off for a much higher figure, each pocketing about $2.6 million in the process, prosecutors say.
The three men, all British citizens, deny any criminal conduct and have always insisted that if there is a case against them it should be tried in Britain because that is where the alleged offenses took place.
They lost a last-ditch appeal to the European Court of Human Rights and must leave Britain for Enron's home state of Texas by midnight on July 17.
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