Extradition for crypto-related allegations – UK High Court blocks extradition to US for crypto-related allegations (Part 3)

17 Nov 2023, 19 mins ago

UK High Court refuses to extradite individual to the US for allegations involving crypto

The United States (“US”) have so far been very successful in securing extradition to the US of those alleged to be involved in crypto offences (even in circumstances when the individual has not set foot in the US).

However, the UK High Court has recently blocked the US’s attempts to extradite a UK national to the US for allegations involving crypto.

This blog looks at the US’s previous successful attempts before turning to the case of Hamilton v Government of the United States of America and exploring why this case was not a success for the US.

Previous successful US extraditions

On 17 August 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the District of Oregon announced that an alleged cryptocurrency money launderer was extradited from the Netherlands to the United States (“US”).

This followed an individual being extradited from Greece to the US for allegations of money laundering involving an illicit Bitcoin Exchange.

We have also discussed FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s extradition to the US.

Indeed, it is clear that the US is increasingly holding to account individuals outside of the US who are alleged to be involved in crypto crimes that are asserted to have had an effect in the US.

Hamilton v Government of the United States of America

The US sought Mr Hamilton’s extradition from the UK for allegations of money laundering and wire fraud charges. These charges were linked to the fake cryptocurrency OneCoin.

At the time of the allegations Mr Hamilton was based in the UK, and the Crown Prosecution Service had previously said that Mr Hamilton should be prosecuted in the US rather than the UK.

However, the UK High Court disagreed, including citing the fact that most of the alleged money laundering took place in the UK, where the British authorities should deal with Mr Hamilton.

The UK High Court essentially blocked My Hamilton’s extradition under the forum bar.

We have previously discussed the operation of the forum bar in extradition cases, including in the blog titled “Meng Wanzhou Huawei and extradition and cross-border allegations”.

We have also previously discussed the potential imbalance between the US and UK jurisdictional reach for financial crime offences.

International dimension of offences involving crypto

As was discussed in our previous blog entitled “Can I be extradited for allegations involving crypto?”, due to the borderless nature of crypto transactions, any allegation of criminality will inevitably involve multiple jurisdictions. As such, there may be numerous countries asserting jurisdiction and trying to extradite an alleged perpetrator to their jurisdiction to face justice. 

The vast majority (if not all) of criminal allegations that underpin a crypto criminal investigation are of a financial crime nature, e.g. fraud, money laundering and insider dealing.

These offences, by their very nature, can take place across multiple jurisdictions and are therefore types of offences for which multiple countries can assert jurisdiction, including in relation to conduct outside of their own country (hence extradition can be an option). 

Indeed, due to the borderless nature of the effect of these crimes, a country could assert jurisdiction against an individual who has not even stepped foot in that jurisdiction.

As such, states might additionally utilise INTERPOL to locate an individual and seek their arrest prior to issuing any extradition request.

Asserting jurisdiction for cross-border allegations

It is generally accepted that the US’s reach in these types of cases is far extending. Indeed, so long as there is some aspect of the case which is alleged to have taken place in the US, there is a risk of criminal charges being brought in the US, and therefore extradition to the US.  This could be applicable to other jurisdictions.

Indeed, the issue of extra-territorial reach and extradition for financial crime offences is an issue that the team have previously discussed in another blog entitled “Meng Wanzhou Huawei extradition and cross-border allegations”.

International crypto dimension – criminal investigations, litigation and extradition

Those who fear they may be subject to an extradition request from the UK, or who are just concerned about liability across multiple jurisdictions, including the UK, should get in touch.

Gherson LLP’s criminal litigation, regulatory and investigatory team combine an expert knowledge of criminal and regulatory law underpinned by a firm understanding of digital assets and blockchain technology. As such, the team are able to provide expert strategic advice to anyone facing investigation in relation to any allegation of criminality involving cryptoassets. Working alongside the extradition team, Gherson LLP’s criminal litigation, investigations and regulatory team are able to offer an unparalleled service in any case with an international dimension. The team can also call upon lawyers in multiple other jurisdictions and build multi-jurisdictional teams to assist with any suitable defence.

INTERPOL, Red Notices and crypto

In addition, those who fear that a jurisdiction may have requested INTERPOL to process data relating to them involving any allegations of crypto offences, or are just concerned about potential liability, should get in contact.

Indeed, Gherson Solicitors LLP continue to receive requests for expert advice and assistance from those who fear they may have outstanding financial issues arising. That advice tackles:   

  1. How to best approach a possible INTERPOL Red Notice;
  2. Preparing for potential criminal proceedings / an extradition request;
  3. Preparing for a situation where a civil matter or commercial dispute could be used to initiate bogus criminal proceedings; and
  4. Even exploring the possibility of instigating civil litigation proceedings to recover any misappropriated assets.

Gherson LLP have previously written a series of blogs designed to assist those who fear they might be subject to INTERPOL measures (including a Red Notice):

INTERPOL and Red Notice Challenges

How to Remove an INTERPOL Red Notice

INTERPOL Red Notices and Extradition

How do I know if I am subject to an INTERPOL Red Notice

Regulation and compliance

In these constantly changing times, firms that deal with cryptoassets, and additionally have exposure to firms that do, will need to carefully consider all their systems and controls to ensure that they are able to comply with all relevant AML and sanctions regulations

How Gherson LLP can assist

Gherson’s white-collar crime and regulatory team are able to provide advice and assistance with AML and sanctions compliance, including in situations involving cryptoassets

Additionally, the team has recently started a series of blogs on the regulation of crypto, with the aim of advising those who work in the compliance of this sector. Furthermore, for those who would like advice on relevant issues, including those who have had issues with the FCA registration process, our specialist regulatory and compliance team can guide individuals and companies through the process.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice, send us an e-mail, or, alternatively, follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date.

The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please do not hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2023