A Bournemouth accountant, wanted by the Swedish police for alleged involvement in an attempted $50m (#31m) bank fraud, has escaped extradition to stand trial.
Two London High Court judges ruled it would be ‘unjust’ if CIMA and ACCA member Dr Michael Cornelius, 59, was forced to return to Sweden to face trial almost five years after the alleged offences took place.
Lord Justice Pill said the Swedish government had demanded Cornelius’ extradition on charges, among others, of conspiracy to make a false instrument, using a false instrument and conspiracy to defraud Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken.
It was alleged that in August 1993, as part of a wider conspiracy, Cornelius attempted to negotiate the sale of a forged $50m ‘standby letter of credit’ at the offices of stockbroker Merrill Lynch, in London.
The conspiracy was discovered when a Merrill Lynch secretary, Janet Blum, telephoned the Swedish bank which confirmed that the document was a forgery.
Pill said Cornelius firmly denied any involvement in the attempted fraud, and added: ‘It would be unjust to permit him to be extradited to Sweden.’ Blum, who could have been a ‘vital’ witness in Cornelius’ defence, had moved to China and was uncontactable, the judge added.
And there was also a danger that Cornelius’ trial might be ‘prejudiced’ by the help he gave to the Swedish authorities – including acting as a prosecution witness at the trials of others accused of involvement in the conspiracy, two of whom were convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment in November 1994.
While assisting the Swedish police, Dr Cornelius, of Heathwood Road, Bournemouth, was never warned he might himself be prosecuted.
Since returning to the UK, Cornelius had become finance director of a company in ‘severe financial difficulties’ and the court heard there were concerns the business would fail if he were extradited.
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