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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: To extradite or not?

Tony Best

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: To extradite or not?

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To extradite or not to extradite. That is the kind of issue Barbados’ top court can easily find itself being called upon to settle and it’s a situation a British corporate executive working in America found himself in. This was after he allegedly misused his company’s credit card.

The case, which started out as a straightforward case of a top corporate executive being accused of engaging in alleged fraud in order to get his employer to pay for time share units in Barbados, furniture and a house in North Carolina, has ended with federal prison terms in the United States for Paul Dunham and his wife Sandra, and triggering a vigorous debate in England about the intrinsic fairness of a US to United Kingdom extradition treaty.

And while Dunham, who had grown accustomed to his luxury vacations in Barbados with his wife and his upscale existence in America, now has four years in a spartan federal prison cell to think about what went wrong in their lives, the matter has left a burning issue behind.

It is should he and his wife have been extradited to the US from England 

to face federal fraud charges in Maryland?

“Critics of the US-Britain extradition agreement have long argued that it allows American authorities to demand the extradition of British citizens without presenting significant evidence, and that the treaty is lopsided because it is easier to extradite a British citizen to the US than vice versa,” stated Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press (AP).

For his part, Dunham, 59, reportedly told journalists that the British justice system had let him and his wife down by ordering them to the US to answer charges  while US authorities insist the couple got what they deserved.

So, as they try to figure out how come things turned so sour after years of living well, including the Barbados time share units, flying their friends on a private jet and staying at a cottage that came with a butler, Dunham, said his attorneys Deborah Boardman and Gary Procto in a statement, “can finally see light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.”

Dunham, a former president of PACE USA, an electronics company based in North Carolina, hasn’t hidden his regret. He told a federal court in Maryland the other day, “I am truly sorry.”

The corporate president stated in his brief mea culpa an expression of repentance usually reserved for Roman Catholic mass, as he was being imprisoned for fraud, engaging in money laundering and conspiring to break federal wire laws.

According to federal court documents and a report by AP, Dunham and his wife, who was director of sales and marketing at PACE during the first decade of the 21st century, improperly used corporate credit cards and submitted false expense claims to PACE for reimbursement between 2002 and 2009, totalling more than US$1 million.

The reimbursements were really for mortgage payments on time shares the couple bought in Barbados, home furnishings, luxury bedding and even a sofa for their dogs, prosecutors alleged.

After fighting extradition from England to the US, the coupled pleaded guilty to charging personal expenses to their corporate credit cards and submitting untrue expense claims that weren’t PACE’s responsibility.

The Dunhams, who are from Northampton in England but lived at different times in North Carolina and Maryland and spent time in Barbados, acknowledged that they spent much of PACE’s money on homes in the US.

Before her husband had his day in court, Dunham admitted her own culpability in a guilty plea to charges that she conspired to commit wire fraud and was slapped with 30 days in prison and a month in home detention.

She is expected to return to England almost immediately because she had spent time in detention before her appearance in the US court.

What the court heard was that her husband was the alleged mastermind of most of the reported wrongdoing and therefore deserved the heavier punishment.

A federal prosecutor, Leah Bressack, said the couple had engaged “in a systematic pilfering” of the company which is based in North Carolina.

Although the couple claimed they were broke, the court ordered ordered them to repay PACE US$1 million.

The case had attracted considerable attention in both England and the US after the Dunhams waged a lengthy but unsuccessful battle to avoid being sent back to the US to face the judicial music.

The matter went to the British High Court and the European Court of Human Rights after the couple raised concerns about their own health and speculated they wouldn’t be treated well in American jails.

But in the end, the British and European courts rejected those claims. But the drama didn’t end there. The day before their extradition, reported AP, the Dunhams attempted to kill themselves with a drug overdose. But that too failed.

Afterwards, Dunham was quoted by reporters as saying he and his wife’s extradition was “disproportionate”.