The appellant is the son of a recently deceased prominent Romanian media mogul and businessman who was friends with and a supporter of Mr Basescu, President of Romania from 2004 to 2014.
In 2013 the respondent issued a European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”) against the appellant after he and his father allegedly committed two offences of bribing judges, uncovered as part of a wider operation to remove corruption from the Romanian judiciary.
The EAW was certified in the UK in 2016 and the appellant was arrested. In 2018 a District Judge ordered that the appellant be extradited to Romania under Part 1 of the Extradition Act 2003.
The appellant appealed against this order in the High Court. In summary, his case centred on the contention that his prosecution in Romania was not the product of an ordinary, evidence-based criminal process. By contrast, his counsel submitted it was the result of a politically-directed campaign initially against his late father and subsequently against him. This campaign was allegedly instituted by Mr Ponta, Prime Minister of Romania from 2012 to 2015, and then continued by the Romanian anti-corruption directorate, domestic intelligence agency and financial services regulatory body. There was compelling evidence before the lower court that the prosecution and extradition of the appellant were and remain based on extraneous, political considerations. Consequently, there were substantial grounds for believing that, if extradited, he would face a real risk of a denial of a fair trial.
On the other hand, the respondent’s counsel contended that the evidence against the appellant was strong, strengthened by further information provided by the Romanian authorities. However, counsel continued, the strength of the evidence was not a question for either the District Judge or the High Court. Instead, the question for the Court was simply whether the Judge’s decision was wrong. Counsel submitted that the Judge addressed the key material with sufficient care, analysed and evaluated the evidence and reached reasonable conclusions, and so there was no basis for the Court to interfere with those conclusions.
HELD: Appeal dismissed. In short, the decision made by the Judge, on the evidence before him, was not wrong. The fresh evidence on which the appellant sought to rely did not assist his case. The Judge was correct to find that there was no evidence to rebut the presumption that Romania would abide by its Convention obligations in relation to fair trial.
Tim Owen QC was involved in this case.