Biden must fix our broken extradition process with the UK

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

Biden must fix our broken extradition process with the UK

As people focus on former President Donald Trump’s criminal conviction, let us not forget that justice is being delayed in lesser-known cases, sometimes for years, and for a completely avoidable reason.

A majority of Americans say the U.S. criminal justice system is not tough enough, and that the Biden administration specifically must do more to hold criminals accountable who seek to do America harm.

Having served in Congress for many years, I have first-hand experience in writing and shaping U.S. laws that impact millions of Americans. When it comes to foreign criminals playing legal games to avoid being held accountable in the U.S. for their crimes, it’s clear that the U.S. Congress needs to investigate and take action.

Since 2012, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been fighting his extradition from the UK for espionage crimes that put the lives of American troops at risk. With this case going on for 14 years, it’s unfortunate that our extradition process with the UK is so archaic that an individual who leaked sensitive national security information has not yet been held accountable in a U.S. court of law.

In recent days, Assange was told by a London court that he can appeal U.S. extradition charges for espionage. The Biden administration even guaranteed that Assange will not face the death penalty if extradited. (In contrast, Trump even announced he would consider pardoning Assange.)

Another person fighting extradition to the U.S. from the UK is Pakistani businessman Arif Naqvi, who is at times referred to as the Bernie Madoff of the Middle East. Naqvi founded the largest buyout fund in the Middle East, which managed almost $14 billion in assets and allegedly defrauded U.S. investors. Public pension funds, Bank of America, the U.S., UK and French governments invested in this fund, which was intended to help human flourishing in emerging markets.

In 2018, the fund collapsed. According to U.S. prosecutors, Naqvi had masterminded a global criminal conspiracy, fraudulently transferring more than $780 million to himself or other parties for his benefit that funded his billionaire lifestyle. With $150 million invested by the U.S. government, the American taxpayer was a victim of this fraud. Today Naqvi continues to live in luxury in London while fighting U.S. efforts to be extradite him.

The Biden administration needs to work together with the UK, because the extradition agreement we have in place has fallen short repeatedly. In late 2022, British businessman Graham Bonham-Carter was arrested by the UK National Crime Agency, accused of funding properties and artwork bought by a billionaire Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the time, the U.S. Department of Justice sought the Bonham-Carter’s extradition for economic sanctions violations and wire fraud.

Bonham-Carter’s case was ultimately settled when the U.S. gave up on extraditing him. But with such a strong footprint of Russian oligarchs and their proxies in the UK, it once again highlights the need for fundamental reforms to the extradition agreement between the U.S. and the UK.

Whether it’s Julian Assange leaking classified information, Ariq Naqvi defrauding U.S. investors or someone helping a Russian oligarch violate U.S. sanctions laws, our political leaders need to take action. In Congress, this is an area where Democrats and Republicans can work together and engage with the British government after the upcoming elections to extradite criminals who violate U.S. laws.

The extradition system between the U.S. and UK is broken. Such close allies should be able to work together to strengthen our extradition agreements and ensure that the U.S. government can bring to justice individuals that do America harm. 

Ron Klink represented Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District for four terms and was the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.