There has been an almost doubling in the number of arrests in the United Kingdom of individuals for extradition to the United States over the last 12 months, says Sweet & Maxwell, the legal information provider and part of Thomson Reuters.

According to data provided to Sweet & Maxwell by the UK’s Home Office, 22 people were arrested in the last year in the UK as response to extradition requests made by the US Government, up from just 12 in 2011. The arrests undertaken for extradition to the U.S. accounted for 37 percent of all arrests made in the UK to satisfy extradition requests from foreign governments.

Whilst the majority of extraditions to the US relate to terrorism, concerns have been raised over the US’ requests to extradite suspects of white collar crime, ranging from copyright infringements, to computer hacking and securities fraud where those crimes have arguably been undertaken in the UK.

High profile cases involve attempts by the US government to extradite Richard O’Dwyer, who set up file sharing website TV Shack whilst still a teenager, and the computer hacker Gary McKinnon. Although those two extradition requests were unsuccessful, in 2013 the US secured the extradition of a former London based trader at Credit Suisse, Kareem Serageldin, in connection with a scheme to manipulate mortgage-backed security prices.

US authorities have also recently discussed the possibility of seeking the extradition of former employees of JP Morgan, based in Europe, who they suspect of being involved in the US $6 billion “London Whale” scandal.

There has been a long running debate over the US/UK extradition treaty with some politicians wanting changes to the treaty to address what they perceive as an imbalance in favor of the US. The perception is that the US authorities seek far harsher sentences against defendants that they extradite than would be achieved if the case were heard in the UK.

The US has historically taken a tougher approach to white collar crime than the UK and Europe has. For example, legislation to toughen criminal sanctions against insider dealing and bribery and corruption have lagged behind equivalent legislation in the US by decades.

Some commentators have argued that there is also more enthusiasm amongst US authorities to use criminal law to protect the commercial interest of US companies overseas – which may explain why the US pursues cases against file sharers overseas.

 

This story was published in Financial Times.