Fraud-accused couple's 'nightmare'

This Is Lancashire: Paul and Sandra Dunham are due to take their case to the High Court after the US sought their extradition over what the couple claim is an "employment-related dispute" Paul and Sandra Dunham are due to take their case to the High Court after the US sought their extradition over what the couple claim is an "employment-related dispute"

A British couple have described their "Kafkaesque nightmare" as they fight extradition to the US over an alleged work expenses fraud.

Paul and Sandra Dunham are preparing to take their case to the High Court after the US Department of Justice sought their extradition over what the couple claim is an "employment-related dispute".

The pair are accused of embezzling more than one million US dollars (£605,000) in illegitimate expense claims, which they "vehemently" deny.

Mr Dunham, 58, was indicted on 13 counts of fraud and money laundering by a grand jury in Greenbelt, Maryland, in December 2011, while his wife Sandra, 57, is accused of aiding and abetting her husband.

However the couple say they were only made aware of the charges in November 2012 when they were contacted by officers from Scotland Yard.

The couple believe their case should never have been made a criminal case and have written to Prime Minister David Cameron about their plight.

Should they be extradited, Mr and Dunham say they have warned they will be held in separate US jails for up to two years before their trial takes place.

The couple's lawyers have described the case as "a cruel demonstration of the effects of the Extradition Act 2003" which has left Mr and Mr Dunham bankrupt and with severe mental distress, causing Mr Dunham to suffer a series of mini-strokes and depression.

Mr Dunham said: "I never once believed we could be embroiled in such a Kafkaesque nightmare with no money to properly defend ourselves.

"I spent 30 years working hard, thankfully with the unfailing support of Sandra. Yet look at us today. She and I are law-abiding citizens brought to our knees by our inability to fight these vindictive charges.

"We have now lost everything but our liberty - and even that will be taken away if we're extradited. So much for innocence before proven guilty.

"There's no sense of justice in these extradition arrangements. You expect your government to protect you against the overbearing might of a foreign justice system. Well no such luck if you're British.

"Why do we have to be extradited months, more likely years, before trial to languish in a US prison cell, separated from each other?

"What purpose does that serve, other than to put enormous mental pressure on us both? So much for equality of arms.

"The stark truth is that the threat of extradition has ruined our lives - physically, mentally and financially. We see no happy ending in sight and feel like there's nowhere to turn."

Mr Dunham was chief executive and president of PACE, a US company manufacturing soldering irons for the electronics industry.

The couple's lawyers say Eric Siegel, the son of PACE founder, the late William Siegel, is pursuing the Dunhams over alleged improperly claimed expenses arising from the pair's relocation from the UK to Maryland to run PACE in the US.

The Dunhams claim that all the expenses payments they received were properly accounted for and approved by William Siegel, as well as the company's finance director, and were also subject to the external auditors' scrutiny on an annual basis.

The couple, from Northampton, insist there is no case to answer and will take their case to the High Court on February 6.

Michael Evans, of Kaim Todner Ltd, the Dunhams' solicitor, said: "This sad case is yet another example of the devastating effect of extradition on the lives of ordinary citizens.

"Defence practitioners at the sharp end, coming face to face on a daily basis with distraught defendants protesting their innocence, are united in our calls for greater safeguards. Yet the Government is dragging its feet, and in some respects is making matters worse.

"Neither the French nor the Israelis will extradite their citizens to the US. The Irish wont extradite if they can prosecute domestically. Yet each still maintain an extradition treaty.

"Britain should look to renegotiate with the US, to reintroduce some basic fairness rather than trying to limit the right of appeal against unfair and unnecessary forced extraditions."

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