EU signs agreement to ease US extradition efforts

Eurojust, the EU body established to help EU prosecutors and crime fighters pursue cross-border investigations, has signed an agreement with the US that could smooth the way for more transatlantic extraditions.

In a potentially controversial move given the uproar surrounding cases such as the NatWest Three extradition, Eurojust can now stage joint meetings with US judicial authorities about current cases and charges.

A spokesman for the current EU Finnish presidency said: “National authorities of the US may participate in meetings arranged by Eurojust dealing with specific criminal cases.”

Furthermore, the US government will be permitted to second a liaison prosecutor to the Eurojust headquarters in The Hague. The deal will probably smooth the operation of 2003 EU-US criminal judicial cooperation agreements on mutual legal assistance and extradition.

The agreements give US and EU law enforcement teams access to bank accounts in each other’s jurisdictions when investigating serious crimes. They also allow for the creation of joint investigative teams. On the sensitive topic of extradition, they simplify documentation and allow direct contacts between authorities seeking extradition and those granting or denying it.

The news follows last week’s crunch House of Commons vote that enabled the UK Government to overturn House of Lords efforts to curb ‘fast-track’ extraditions from the UK to the US.