US Extradition Act of 2003: UK Parliament fumes over use against citizens

July 9, 2012

Alaska Dispatch on July 8, 2012 released the following:

By: Michael Goldfarb

“LONDON, UK — The special relationship — Britain and the US, or is that the US and Britain? — is often remarked on here in Britain, particularly when there is a change at the top of government. A new president or prime minister is good for a couple of days of headlines, at least, about America and her most important ally.

It’s been decades since there was a serious challenge to the idea that the natural order of things is that the US and UK are as one on the matters that count. So it is easy to forget that for most of the last two centuries the two countries have frequently been “frenemies.”

But now there is an issue that threatens the perfect calm: extradition — to be specific, the Extradition Act of 2003.

Passed by a Labour-dominated Parliament in the aftermath of 9/11, when the Relationship was at the height of its Specialness, the Extradition Treaty was supposed to make it easier for Britain to send jihadists arrested on British soil to the US, if a request was made.

But the treaty immediately became controversial because it was used as much against British businessmen and computer hackers as suspects in the War on Terror.

The most recent example is the case of Richard O’Dwyer, a graduate student in computer science, who American authorities want extradited to face charges of copyright infringement. O’Dwyer set up a website TVshack.net, a search engine, which listed sites where films and programs could be watched. He is not accused of streaming any himself.

If you go to the site now, a notice comes up saying the domain name has been seized by US Immigration and Customs Service. This is followed by a brief, professionally made (and kind of clever) anti-piracy video.

The US request was granted by Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, last March. The controversy burst out again last week, when Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, launched a campaign in The Guardian newspaper to prevent the extradition by posting an online petition.

Wales notes that had O’Dwyer been arrested for similar crimes in Britain, the maximum sentence would be six months. In the US, he could serve 10 years, if convicted.

The disproportion in sentencing between the two countries is one reason the treaty is increasingly coming under fire. The other is the standard of proof required for an extradition request to be granted. The last extradition treaty — signed in 1870 when Britain was the global superpower — required the US to show it had a prima facie case against the person being extradited. The new one drops that to “reasonable suspicion.”

This is an issue that cuts across party lines. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, composed of members of all parties, called for the treaty to be renegotiated, although another parliamentary review found that there was no imbalance at all.

Typical of those raising questions is Conservative MP Dominic Raab. A self-described America lover and Atlanticist, he understands why fast-track extradition “might be a jolly good thing” when dealing with terror suspects, but feels “the pendulum has swung too far” in facilitating all manner of extradition requests.

He questions the low legal threshold these requests have to pass. He alludes to the O’Dwyer case, “If criminal conduct is alleged to take place in the UK and the UK courts aren’t interested in prosecuting, why should American courts be allowed to prosecute a British citizen?” Raab adds, “We need sensible safe guards for our citizens.”

Raab points out that regardless of whether a suspect is proven innocent, an extradition “destroys your life. If you take six months to two years to fight charges successfully, the expenses incurred are devastating.”

American legal costs are much higher than those in Britain. Some Brits who have been extradited have struck a plea bargain rather than lose all their money. “But if you cop a plea bargain in return for a lighter sentence it still destroys your life,” says Raab.

There is another aspect of the extradition law that has Brits concerned: the fearsome reputation of American prisons. Their image as sinkholes of gang violence, homosexual rape and other kinds of depravity has spread around the planet via films and television.

This reputation was testified to recently by Gary Mulgrew, one of the NatWest Three — British bankers who were accused of a fraud related to Enron’s collapse and extradited to Texas. The trio pleaded guilty to one count each in order to reduce their prison time.

Now Mulgrew has written an account of his time in Big Spring, Texas penitentiary. “Gang of One” appeared in the ultra-right wing Daily Mail earlier this year, with the headline, “This wasn’t punishment. It was the Big Brother house with wall-to-wall psychos.”

It spared readers none of the horrors of life inside.

It is articles like this — and the sense that somehow Britain is being bullied into sending for trial people the law was not intended to cover — that lead to calls for either the scrapping or renegotiation of the Extradition Treaty.

Enter the case of Gary McKinnon, accused of committing the biggest military hack of all time.

In 2001-2002, McKinnon is alleged to have hacked into US military and NASA computers a total of 97 times.

Why?

He was looking to prove the military and space agencies were hiding evidence of extraterrestrial life and alien technology.

Sound odd?

Well McKinnon suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. His computer expertise and rather strange obsession is offered as proof of his condition.

The size of the hack, however, has US prosecutors fuming. McKinnon could face up to 70 years in prison if tried in the US and convicted on all counts.

The 46-year-old’s case is one of the hotter political potatoes British Prime Minister David Cameron has to handle. On July 5, McKinnon was offered another chance by Home Secretary May to have further medical tests before she makes her decision. Clearly, she wants to delay things for as long as possible, reports the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph.

If she chooses to interpret the treaty literally and send McKinnon to the US for trial, the “special relationship” will take a real beating here and the Conservative Party will pay the electoral price.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom here.

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Home secretary upholds decision to extradite Richard O’Dwyer

July 9, 2012

The Guardian on July 9, 2012 released the following:

By: James Ball and Alan Travis

“Theresa May says she will not review case that could see Sheffield student facing 10 years in US jail

The home secretary, Theresa May, has told the House of Commons that she will not revisit plans to extradite Sheffield Hallam student Richard O’Dwyer to the US on copyright charges, saying the decision had “already been taken”.

O’Dwyer faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in a US jail for alleged copyright offences, for which the UK declined to press charges. The charges relate to a website, tvshack.net, which O’Dwyer when he was 19 and which linked to places to watch TV and films online.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched a campaign against his extradition late last month, including a petition which on Monday hit 225,000 signatures, primarily from the UK and the US.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who has previously raised concerns over several US extradition cases, asked May at home secretary’s questions in the Commons on Monday if she planned to review the case, given that it involved “an offence, if it is one, that our own authorities thought did not merit a prosecution.”

May, who must personally approve extraditions under the US/UK treaty, said the decision had been taken and O’Dwyer must rely on his court appeal.

“As you know that case is due to go to court later this year,” she said. “As regards the extradition decision, that has already been taken and, as you know, I have decided to uphold the extradition.”

Previous campaigns against extradition have called on home secretaries to review their decisions to extradite, most famously in the case of Chile’s General Pinochet, where former prime minister Margaret Thatcher called on the Labour home secretary to revoke his permission for extradition.

Wales is currently seeking a meeting with May and her advisors to discuss the O’Dwyer case. In his call for the meeting, he said: “The home secretary continues to ignore hundreds of thousands of citizens, the UK tech community, business leaders, celebrities and MPs from all parties on this issue.

“She should be very clear that we are not going to go away and new supporters are joining the campaign all the time.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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International criminal defense questions, but want to be anonymous?

Free Skype Tel: +1.202.470.3427, OR

Free Skype call:

           Office Locations

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No American citizens extradited to UK over crimes allegedly committed in US

May 4, 2012

The Telegraph on May 1, 2012 released the following:

“Not one US citizen has been extradited to Britain as a result of crimes said to have been committed in America since a controversial transatlantic treaty came into force, it has been disclosed.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Critics say it demonstrates the “lopsided” nature of the arrangement since Britions have been subject to US extradition orders as a result of their alleged actions in the UK.

The Home Office made the disclosure under Freedom of Information laws earlier this month.

It said: “From the information available, between January 2004 and 30 March 2012, there have been seven known US citizens extradited from the US to the UK.

“Of those seven, none have been identified as crimes which were committed whilst the person was in the US.”

Dominic Raab, Conservative MP for Esher and Walton, said: “This is more damning evidence of the lop-sided effect of out extradition arrangements with the US.

“Gary McKinnon, Christopher Tappin and Richard O’Dwyer are all subject to US extradition orders based on their actions in Britain.

“Yet, no American has ever been extradited for alleged offences committed on US soil. It smacks of double standards, and strengthens the case for extradition reform.”

Mr McKinnon has been fighting extradition over computer hacking charges for ten years while Mr Tappin was sent to the US earlier this year for alleged arms dealing. Mr O’Dwyer, a student, faces extradition for running a pirate film and TV website.

A US embassy spokeswoman said: “The US has never refused an extradition request from the UK for any type of crime under this treaty.

“The UK has refused 7 requests from the US. The facts clearly show that the treaty is fair and in no way lopsided.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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International criminal questions, but want to be anonymous?

Free Skype Tel: +1.202.470.3427, OR

Free Skype call: mcnabb.mcnabbassociates

           Office Locations

Email:


Richard O’Dwyer: I Saw What They Did To Christopher Tappin, And I’m Scared

March 26, 2012

Huffington Post (UK) on March 26, 2012 released the following:

By: Dina Rickman

“A 23-year-old Briton facing extradition to America on copyright charges has spoken out about his fears in a rare interview, saying he could spend months waiting for trial in a high-security jail.

Student Richard O’Dwyer, who is appealing against being sent to the US, told The Huffington Post UK he was scared he would end up in a maximum-security institution with no bail, and said he didn’t deserve to be imprisoned.

“Yes, I am scared, I have seen in the media what they did to Chris Tappin [the 65-year-old British busisnessman recently extradited to the US] and how he has been put straight into jail with no bail,” Richard said.

Tappin is currently in prison in New Mexico, America, waiting for trial over allegations he plotted to sell arms to Iran.

“I have no criminal record and don’t think I deserve to be imprisoned for what should be a civil matter if anything. In the UK if I was charged with any offence I would not be put in jail for such a matter,” O’Dwyer said, via email.

“I am trying to stay positive and most importantly I want to complete my university degree.”

Richard’s mother Julia, who is appealing after Home Secretary Theresa May signed his extradition order this month, said she was in a “state of panic” when she heard her son could be put on trial in the states.

The mother-of-two has become an “accidental campaigner” against the controversial UK-US extradition treaty since Richard faced extradition to America over claims his website TVShack.net linked to pirated material.

“You’re not fighting any crime here, you’re fighting the law, the extradition law. You don’t get a chance to fight the allegation,” she told The Huffington Post UK.

However Julia – who still does her son’s washing when he returns from university in Sheffield to report for bail – is not angry at Richard: “I’m angry at the government.

“The police are just doing their job, they were just told to do that when it all came from America. I’m not at all angry at Richard, I’m even less angry than I might have been [if he had not been facing extradition] because I am more angry at the government.

“Maybe we’re closer together, a little bit. He doesn’t want to bother about it, you see, much. It’s just a major inconvenience to him,” she said.

“I see him every week. I usually bring his laundry back, I usually do it on the day he goes to bail so I can give him a lift for that. Sometimes he comes home for the weekend anyway. He has to report to a police station every week, whenever I see him I will take away his laundry and next time I’ll see him I will take a bit back. That’s what you do when your kids are at uni, you know.”

O’Dwyer has received support from the families of two other British men facing extradition, Tappin and computer hacker Gary McKinnon.

Julia is now calling for action on the “flawed” legislation, rather than more reform.

“Our government has failed to make a difference to a law that was pushed through the backdoor with no parliamentary scrutiny. Now we’re living with the consequences.

The government has sold him down the river. They’re doing it to other people. This law was put in place by the Labour government in the Queen’s prerogative with no parliamentary scrutiny. This government has promised to look at it and amend it before they came into power and they have done nothing about it except talk about it.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Richard O’Dwyer case: Lawyers lodge extradition appeal

March 22, 2012

BBC on March 22, 2012 released the following:

“The family of a Sheffield student who faces extradition to the United States has confirmed an appeal has been lodged by lawyers.

On 13 March, Home Secretary Theresa May approved the extradition of 23-year-old Richard O’Dwyer, who is accused of copyright infringement.

The US authorities say Mr O’Dwyer’s TVShack website hosted links to pirated films and television programmes.

A spokesman said Mrs May had “carefully considered all relevant matters”.

Mr O’Dwyer had until Monday to appeal against the home secretary’s decision.

Student ‘surprised’
His mother Julia, from Chesterfield, confirmed that lawyers had lodged papers appealing against the extradition.

She has previously said her son had been “sold down the river” by the government.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled in January that Mr O’Dwyer could be extradited.

The Sheffield Hallam University student said he was “surprised” when police officers from the UK and US seized equipment at his home in South Yorkshire in November 2010.

The case was brought by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which claims that the TVShack.net website earned more than $230,000 (£147,000) in advertising revenue before US authorities obtained a warrant and seized the domain name in June 2010.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


BBC News – Richard O’Dwyer case- TVShack creator’s US extradition approved.

March 21, 2012

Uploaded by 1954mugsy to YouTube on March 13, 2012 released the following:

BBC News – Richard O'Dwyer case- TVShack creator's US extradition approved.

Home Secretary Theresa May has approved the extradition to the US of a student accused of copyright infringement.

The US authorities say 23-year-old Sheffield student Richard O’Dwyer’s TVShack website hosted links to pirated films and television programmes.

A spokesman said Mrs May had “carefully considered all relevant matters” before signing the order.

Mr O’Dwyer’s mother, Julia, told the BBC that for Richard “the decision doesn’t feel very real, it’s just a nightmare”.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and ?? here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Murder suspects lose appeal against extradition to US

January 17, 2012

The Guardian on January 17, 2012 released the following:

“European court of human rights dismisses appeals by Briton Phillip Harkins and American Joshua Edwards

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent

Two murder suspects who claim they may face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole if extradited to the US have lost their appeals at the European court of human rights (ECHR).

The unanimous decision by a panel of seven judges to dismiss their claims will be seen as a significant boost for UK-US extradition arrangements and a blow to those campaigning to reform the controversial 2003 agreement.

Both Phillip Harkins, a British national, and Joshua Edwards, an American, now face removal to the US for trial later this year. They are accused of murder and other offences in separate incidents.

Harkins, 34, is alleged to have shot dead a marijuana dealer in Jacksonville, Florida, during a robbery in 2000. He denies taking part in the killing, claiming he had merely lent his car to one of the assailants. In 2003, he was arrested in Britain following a fatal car accident.

Edwards, 25, is said to have had an argument with two other men about his short stature. He is accused of having left the house in Maryland, returned later with a pistol and shot both men in the head, one of whom subsequently died. In 2007, he was arrested in the UK.

Both suspects have resisted extradition to the US following orders made against them by the home secretary. Despite assurances from the US authorities that they would not be given the death penalty, Harkins and Edwards argued that if sent back they could be executed.

Lawyers for the two men also told the Strasbourg court they might receive life sentences of imprisonment without parole that would amount to a breach of their rights under Article 3 of the European convention on human rights that prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment.

But their claims were dismissed by the ECHR. In a summary of the decision, the court said “the diplomatic assurances, provided by the US to the British government – that the death penalty would not be sought in respect of Mr Harkins or Mr Edwards – were clear and sufficient to remove any risk that either of the applicants could be sentenced to death if extradited, particularly as the US had a long history of respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law”.

On the question of life imprisonment without parole, the court said it would not be disproportionate if Harkins or Edwards were given life sentences. Both men have three months to appeal against the judgment to the ECHR’s upper chamber and cannot be removed until that period has passed.

Critics of the 2003 Extradition Act claim the Anglo-American treaty, drawn up in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, is unfair because British citizens facing extradition do not enjoy the same degree of legal protection as Americans.

Campaigners on behalf of Gary McKinnon, the 45-year-old who has Asperger’s syndrome and faces extradition to the US on computer hacking charges, argue that the treaty is one-sided and makes it too easy to remove British citizens.

Last October, however, a review by Lord Justice Baker dismissed their allegations, concluding that the arrangement was balanced and fair.

Two other Britons are fighting extradition to the US: Richard O’Dwyer, 23, and retired businessman Christopher Tappin. O’Dwyer would be the first British citizen to be extradited over the illegal streaming of films. Tappin is wanted in the US on charges of conspiring to sell batteries for Iranian missiles.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and ?? here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


UK student faces U.S. extradition in copyright case

January 13, 2012

Reuters on January 13, 2012 released the following:

“By Georgina Prodhan

(Reuters) – A British student will learn on Friday whether he is to be extradited to the United States for breaching U.S. copyright law by running a website that allowed users to access films and TV programs illegally, in the first case of its kind.

Richard O’Dwyer’s website, TV Shack, provided links to other websites where users could access content but did not host any of the content itself.

The 23-year-old, who says he started the project to improve his computer programming skills and help him get a work placement, did not charge users but sold $230,000 worth of advertising on the site, according to the U.S. authorities.

“I was forced to set up advertising because of the massive server fees,” O’Dwyer told BBC radio ahead of the ruling in a London court.

“When you’ve got a website with over 300,000 people a month visiting, there’s a need for infrastructure to support that. There’s no other way to do it, unless you had the money yourself,” he said.

The United States has cracked down far harder than Britain on illegal file-sharing, which has damaged the film, television and music industries.

O’Dwyer’s lawyer Ben Cooper argues that the student’s activities would not be criminal in Britain, and that he should be tried at home if anywhere.

“There have been lots of very similar cases here which simply haven’t stood up,” Cooper, an extradition lawyer with Doughty Street Chambers, told Reuters by telephone.

“My argument is that it wouldn’t be a criminal case here. At most, it would be a civil matter,” he said. He described O’Dwyer as a “guinea pig” as no British citizen had been extradited to the United States for a copyright offence before.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

————————————————————–

We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and United Kingdom here.

————————————————————–

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


US Anti-Piracy Body Targets Foreign Website Owners for Extradition

July 8, 2011

British website owners could face extradition to the US on piracy charges even if their operation has no connection to America and does something which is most probably legal in the UK, the official leading US web anti-piracy efforts has told the Guardian.

The US’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is targeting overseas websites it believes are breaking US copyrights whether or not their servers are based in America or there is another direct US link, said Erik Barnett, the agency’s assistant deputy director.

As long as a website’s address ends in .com or .net, if it is implicated in the spread of pirated US-made films, TV or other media it is a legitimate target to be closed down or targeted for prosecution, Barnett said. While these web addresses are traditionally seen as global, all their connections are routed through Verisign, an internet infrastructure company based in Virginia, which the agency believes is sufficient to seek a US prosecution.

As well as sites that directly host or stream pirated material, ICE is also focusing on those that simply provide links to it elsewhere. There remains considerable doubt as to whether this is even illegal in Britain – the only such case to be heard before a British court, involving a site called TV-Links, was dismissed by a judge in February last year.

Barnett’s comments follow the case of Richard O’Dwyer, a 23-year-old British student who faces extradition to America for running another popular site, TVShack.net, which provided links to non-licensed streams of films and TV shows. O’Dwyer’s family say they are baffled as to why American authorities want to try a British national with no US connection and whose site used servers based elsewhere.

Barnett, who heads ICE’s efforts on intellectual property enforcement, said he could not comment on the O’Dwyer case. But in an interview with the Guardian he explained the broader thinking behind it.
“By definition, almost all copyright infringement and trademark violation is transnational. There’s very little purely domestic intellectual property theft,” he said.

The agency has been running a year-long campaign, Operation In Our Sites, which has thus far “seized” 125 of the most popular unlicensed film, TV and sport websites, including TVShack, as well as ones selling counterfeit physical goods.

Aside from the contravention of US trademarks, website names are central to deciding which are chosen, Barnett said: “The jurisdiction we have over these sites right now really is the use of the domain name registry system in the United States. That’s the key.”

The only necessary “nexus to the US” is a .com or .net web address for which Verisign acts as the official registry operator, he said.

Decisions on seeking extradition are down to the US department of justice. But Barnett said his agency – which has more than 7,000 criminal investigators – is actively pursuing those within its perceived jurisdiction: “Without wishing to get into the particulars of any case, the general goal of law enforcement is to arrest and prosecute individuals who are committing crimes. That is our goal, our mission. The idea is to try to prosecute.”

In Our Sites has already prompted controversy elsewhere, with a Spanish company launching a lawsuit after two of its sports streaming sites were seized, even though they had been found not to contravene copyright law in Spain.

Barnett defended the decision to also go after linking sites: “I’ll give you an analogy. A lot of drug dealing is done by proxy – you rarely give the money to the same person that you get the dope from. I think the question is, are any of these people less culpable?”

Civil rights and internet freedom organisations said they were alarmed at the apparent intention to enforce US copyright laws around the globe.

Isabella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty, said: “Many countries, including the US, are increasingly asserting jurisdiction over alleged actions that take place in other parts of the world. The internet increases our risk of falling foul of the law, making it possible to commit an offence on the other side of the world without even leaving your bedroom.”

She called on the government to amend the UK’s extradition agreement with the US so a British judge could decide where an alleged crime should be best tried. “It would allow UK courts to bar extradition in the interests of justice where conduct leading to an alleged offence has quite clearly taken place on British soil,” she said.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, which campaigns on web-based freedoms, said that domain names such as .com were usually regarded as generic.

“This seems absurd,” he added. “If you don’t have some idea that there’s a single jurisdiction in which you can be prosecuted for copyright infringement that means you’re potentially opening an individual to dozens of prosecutions.”

Online piracy is, undoubtedly, a huge business. The 125 sites initially targeted for seizure by ICE – the majority of them selling counterfeited physical goods, almost all made in China – recorded between them around 60m visits even after they were replaced with a government warning notice. As well as TV shows and films, there is a huge trade in unlicensed video streams of sports events: just 10 of these sites received almost half the 60m hits.

While physical counterfeiting tends to be dominated by criminal gangs, Barnett said, entertainment sites are often run by the proverbial teenager in a bedroom – who can make a lot of money.

He said: “We seized one bank account for one individual running one sports streaming site. He lives with his parents and has no other source of income. He had $500,000 (£311,013) in his bank account. Most of the individuals that we’ve targeted were earning estimated amounts of between $10,000 and $20,000 a month. You’ve got to remember that the overheads are fairly low – your product isn’t being paid for.”

The majority of this article was written by Peter Walker and published by Guardian on July 3, 2011.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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