A LANDMARK legal case saw a Rotherham accountant defeat two governments and save a man from extradition and a possible life-ending spell in jail.
Chartered accountancy director Peter Wilson went into the case in the USA with an estimated five per cent chance of saving Colin Poole from being extradited to Germany to face a trial for fraud in excess of 15 million Euros.
His victory against the US and German Governments was described by a leading lawyer as “the best performance by a witness I have seen in 40 years as a criminal defence attorney”.
Peter, who lives in Whiston and owns a home in New England, said the case came about after a lawyer friend contacted him regarding severely disabled Londoner Mr Poole, who was living in the USA, who had been arrested at gunpoint in Michigan, jailed and was awaiting extradition accused of fraud against Dutch technology company Phillips.
A German company Mr Poole owned had collapsed owing the money to Phillips.
Mr Poole denied all charges, saying Phillips were to blame for the firm’s failure.
Mr Wilson met with the accused’s US lawyer in Brown McLeod Chartered Accountants’ London office and was asked to assist the defence team by reviewing the German extraditing document, and if possible mount a challenge to it.
Peter, who is based in the firm’s Sheffield office, said: “The lawyer explained that it was extremely rare for a US court to deny an extradition warrant to a country such as Germany, and if we could refute the Germans' case we would still only probably have a five per cent chance of blocking the extradition, but his client was ill, and would probably die in a German jail awaiting trial, as his medication needed constant monitoring.”
Peter said a colleague (Ryan Byrne) examined thousands of archived documents and it appeared that the German case could be flawed as they had missed vital pieces of evidence, which, if presented to the US Court hearing, meant the extradition request may be denied.
Mr Byrne traced six million Euros of monies being repatriated, and the team collated evidence that the remaining sum could have been incurred for legitimate business costs.
Hundreds of hours were spent compiling a detailed forensic audit report, which was sent to the prosecution side and to the court.
Mr Wilson said: “The defending lawyer asked the court if he would allow me to take the witness stand to explain why the German case was flawed.
“The government lawyers blocked the move, arguing that extradition should go ahead and, if relevant, our evidence should be heard before the German court at a full trial.”
The judge finally ordered that Peter should be allowed to testify at the extradition hearing at the Federal Court in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but he would only take into account new evidence if it destroyed the German case.
Peter said: “Anything less than that would mean that extradition would be granted and we would have to argue our case in Germany.
“I presented the case, and was given an extremely tough cross-examination from the extraditing attorney, lasting a full day.
“But everyone there knew I beat her hands-down.
“The head defence lawyer said it was the best performance by a witness he had seen in his 40 years as a criminal defence attorney. And of course it is a lot easier to give a good testimony, when the evidence is on your side, and a lot of credit goes to Ryan for his hours of diligent work.
“All the defence side were ecstatic, but the chief lawyer said it was still a long shot, bearing in mind to block an extradition from a country such as Germany was a very rare occurrence.
“The rule is basically, unless the defence can destroy the prosecution case, extradition goes ahead,”
The judge agreed to review the evidence, but because of the complexity and the seriousness of the case, he would give his judgement at a later date - it came last week and ran to 45 pages.
“The key element in the judgement read that the prosecution case had been proven to be ‘indisputably incorrect by a staggering amount’ and that ‘both the German government and United States now admit so’,” Peter added.
“To win against both governments is almost impossible, but we won, extradition was denied and the client is now a free man.”