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15 Jan 2013

Recent appeals in UAE extradition cases – the extradition pipeline has opened

The number of countries with which the UK has formal extradition treaties is ever increasing, as the government seeks to cooperate more closely with foreign jurisdictions. One such country is the United Arab Emirates, with whom the UK has had an all crimes extradition treaty since 2008. This allows individuals to be extradited from the UK to the UAE if the conduct on which the offence is based is punishable under the laws of both countries by at least one year in prison, so long as a prima facie evidential case is provided.

It is this important legal safeguard of submitting a prima facie case that has been at issue in the recent cases coming to the High Court on appeal. In many other extradition contexts, notably the US/UK treaty and the Council of Europe extradition convention as well as the EU European Arrest Warrant, the prima facie case requirement has been abandoned.

Initially, the UAE faced difficulties in making successful extradition requests.  In the landmark first case of Lodhi v Secretary of State for the Home Department, a case under different multilateral extradition arrangements (in which Corker Binning acted for Lodhi), the High Court refused to extradite Mr Lodhi to the UAE on the grounds that he would suffer inhuman treatment if extradited to Dubai.

Since the Lodhi case there have been several other failed extradition requests at magistrates court level. But in 2012, in two out of three decided cases at appeal level, the High Court granted extradition.

In the first case of the year, Tudor v United Arab Emirates, Mr Tudor was accused of robbery of gold rings from a jewellery shop in Dubai. The UAE government provided five witness statements as supporting evidence. One of the main issues in this appeal was whether the statement of the key witness would be admissible in court under s84 of the Extradition Act 2003. The court decided that, even though this witness was a co-accused in the case, his evidence was admissible as he had already been sentenced and there were other witnesses, and the extradition request was granted.

The other two judgments were those of Government of the United Arab Emirates v Amir and Government of the United Arab Emirates v Allen, which were heard simultaneously in June. Both of these cases involved individuals presenting bad cheques, but resulted in very different outcomes. In Allen, the undated cheque had been provided as security on a long-term loan as a contingency for default. The court found that Ms Allen’s actions could not amount to an offence under s2 of the Fraud Act 2006, or indeed any other offence in UK law. This was because the bank had full knowledge of her financial circumstances, and she had not given the bank an undertaking to provide it with information about any later change in her circumstances. As such she had not been dishonest. In addition, the court disagreed with the UAE government that a “representation” could be said to include any promise about the future. Therefore, in this case the extradition request was unsuccessful.

In Amir however, the giving of bad cheques was considered by the court to be part and parcel of a fraudulent deception, by which Mr Amir duped several individuals into paying him deposits on the same flat. As such, this could amount to an offence under s2 of the Fraud Act 2006. It is interesting to note that Toulson LJ was willing to find a prima facie case in this instance, despite his acknowledgment that the particulars of the offence in the extradition request were “not as clear as they might be”.

The recent cases of Tudor and Amir therefore indicate that the English courts are prepared to grant extradition to the UAE. To date there has been no case where the arguments made in Lodhi about the real risk of ill treatment or torture and the risk of an unfair trial in the UAE has reached the High Court. Now that the extradition pipeline to the UAE is open, it is all the more important that the outcome of the cases against those extradited is carefully monitored; especially as the UAE has still not signed up to any international convention on fair trial.

Important developments have been happening on the import side as well: the UAE has started to extradite defendants for trial in the UK, particularly in large scale VAT frauds where Dubai has often been seen as a safe haven from which to operate fraudulent schemes.  The extradition pipeline is flowing both ways now.

Corker Binning is a law firm specialising in business crime and fraud, regulatory and general criminal work of all types. For more information about how we can help you, visit our extradition page or call us on 0207 353 6000. 

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