A British Court of Appeal in London was informed last month the U.S. asserts the right to kidnap citizens of the U.K. wanted for financial crimes and not just those suspected of terrorist activities.

The revelation was made during an extradition hearing for Stanley Tollman, who, with other family members, controls the Red Carnation hotel group, and who is wanted in the U.S. for bank fraud and tax evasion, reported the London Sunday Times.

U.S. authorities are investigating more than a dozen British executives who could face criminal charges in U.S. courts.

In July 2006, three British businessmen – Giles Darby, David Bermingham and Gary Mulgrew from the London firm Greenwich NatWest – were extradited to the U.S. on charges related to a fraudulent deal with Enron. The trio pleaded guilty to wire fraud last week.

The Tollmans have been fighting extradition in British courts.

During last month’s hearing, Alun Jones, the attorney representing the U.S. government, was asked about the attempted abduction of Gavin, Tollman’s nephew, during a visit to Canada in 2005.

At that time, Gavin Tollman, who had successfully fought extradition from the U.K., was detained by Canadian immigration officials. An American prosecutor tried to convince the Canadians to drive Tolman to the border and turn him over. A Canadian judge, however, ordered Tollman released and accused the U.S. Justice Department of setting a “sinister trap.”

Jones told the Court of Appeals under U.S. law, it is acceptable to kidnap anyone anywhere in the world if the person is wanted for committing a crime in the U.S.

Under precedent that “goes back to bounty hunting days in the 1860s,” anyone seized abroad by U.S. authorities cannot be freed by a U.S. court because the abduction was illegal, he said.

“That is United States law,” Jones told the court.

The policy of “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects has drawn fire from critics of the Bush administrations conduct in the war on terrorism, but the clarification of the U.S. position to the British court makes it clear the policy is viewed as covering a broad spectrum of offenses.

In 1990, the U.S. snatched Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain from his medical office in Guadalajara, Mexico, for his suspected role in the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena Salazar. Despite an extradition treaty with Mexico, DEA agents seized Machain and flew him to Texas for trial.

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the abduction legal and Maichan had no remedy against it.

“The United States does have a view about procuring people to its own shores which is not shared,” Jones told the British court.

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