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The United Kingdom of #Fraud and #Bribery?




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Will the U.K. still have access to key European intelligence systems and judicial tools, including the European Arrest Warrants (EAW), following Brexit? U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May insists that the issue is still under negotiation, in sharp contrast to EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier’s unequivocal statement that the UK will cease to be a member of initiatives like Europol as soon as it leaves the European Union, and would have to go through a lengthy negotiation process to rejoin them as a non-Schengen, non-EU country.

The precedent for a non-EU country participating in the EAW scheme is not much more promising; Norway and Iceland’s extradition treaties with the EU, which largely mirror the EAW, took years to negotiate and have yet to come fully into effect. The British government’s decision to make remaining a part of the EAW a “priority”, no matter how unlikely this is from Brussels’ standpoint, suggests that U.K. officials are aware that without the EAW and other judicial cooperation tools, they risk becoming safehaven for criminals.

The EAW, introduced in January 2004, has greatly streamlined and depoliticized the extradition process in Europe, as participating countries are no longer able to exempt their own citizens from extradition and executive decision-making is removed from the surrender procedure. The rule of dual criminality, under which acts only constitute a basis for extradition if they are considered a crime in both the requesting and the requested jurisdiction,  was relaxed. Now, for 32 categories of crimes, ranging from the most serious (terrorism, murder, rape) to the less obvious (fraud, antiquities smuggling, environmental crime) there is no need to prove dual criminality.

If in the olden days, processing and extraditing a suspect an year, under the accelerated procedure it’s  resolved in 48 days on average. Thanks to that, the EAW is highly effective against emerging types of crime, such as a recent scheme in which Eastern European gangs use low-cost airlines to travel abroad and commit crimes before rapidly returning to their country.


While some hard-line Brexiteers welcome the U.K.’s upcoming exclusion from the EAW, cherry-picking cases to claim that “many innocent Britons have been subject to devastating abuse at the hands of incompetent or even corrupt European authorities”, this hyperbole ignores the significant successes for which the EAW scheme is responsible. The Association of Chief Police Officers referred to the EAW as a ‘vital’ tool against organized crime; the Conservative Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, recognised that the EAW was an “effective tool” that was “absolutely essential to delivering effective judgment to the murderers, rapists, and paedophiles that we have managed to seek judgment on”.

There are numerous high-profile examples of the criminals Rudd is referring to having been brought to the UK to face justice via the EAW, from terrorist Husain Osman to paedophile Stephen Carruthers, who had been one of Britain’s ten most wanted criminals when he was arrested in France in January 2017, to priest Laurence Soper, who was brought back from Kosovo to the U.K. to face charges for sexually abusing boys and subjecting them to sadistic beatings. Whitehall has also benefited from the swift extradition of numerous lower-profile criminals, many of whom would not have been brought before justice without the EAW.

While there is a general consensus that the EAW could be improved, particularly by instituting a proportionality test with common guidelines for all EU countries, exiting the scheme entirely throws the baby out with the bathwater and would return the U.K. to a system that, as Theresa May herself noted, would permit 22 EU countries, including France and Germany, to refuse to extradite their nationals to the U.K.  Numerous U.K. officials have raised concerns about a serious security risk if British police are cut off from European resources. A recent report from academics at King’s College London emphasized the high stakes involved and warned against a “serious disruption to security cooperation”, while senior police officers advised that “years of onerous work” will be needed to preserve the current levels of international cooperation.

The difficulties have already begun. As many as 20 extradition requests sought by British police are currently held up in Ireland due to concerns about what extradition framework will exist between the two countries post-Brexit. There are increasing fears that the UK will become “the refuge of preference for every criminal in Europe”.

These fears are easily justified: European criminals on the run from fraud and corruption charges already flee to the UK. Romanian oligarch Alexander Adamescu represents the perfect example of the kind of criminal which will flood the post-Brexit U.K.. Adamescu fled to the U.K. to escape bribery and fraud allegations similar to those which imprisoned his late father. A poisonous combination of an elaborate and noisy media strategy put into place by his British lawyers and hard-line Tories seizing on Adamescu’s case to promote their anti-EU, anti-EAW agenda have kept him in the U.K. despite the outstanding European Arrest Warrant in his name. While evading justice in the UK and masquerading as a playwright, Adamescu is now free to continue his stalling tactics. He is suing the Romanian state, arguing that the charges against him and his father are politically motivated, and is even claiming Jewish heritage - since one of the few ways to override an EAW is in cases of racial or religious discrimination.

Adamescu is not alone in finding the U.K. an attractive place to hide from justice. 28 percent of people arrested in London are foreign nationals, half of which are from the EU. And this is with the European Arrest Warrant in place - without it, Theresa May’s prediction that the UK will become a “honeypot” for criminals evading European justice will undoubtedly prove true.

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