Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 11 News List

British bankers released on bail under lawyer's care

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , HOUSTON

Three former British bankers charged in an Enron-related fraud case pleaded not guilty on Friday in a federal court in Houston and were released on bail.

But in an unusual twist, the three men were released under the supervision of a defense lawyer.

"I'm not sure we've ever allowed that," Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith of US District Court said when Dan Cogdell, a lawyer for one of the bankers, David Bermingham, proposed taking responsibility for the three men until Friday. A hearing has been scheduled then to determine whether the men will be permitted to return to the UK pending their trial.

Bermingham and the other two bankers -- Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew -- are accused of conspiring with the former chief financial officer of Enron, Andrew Fastow, to enrich themselves at the expense of their employers. According to an indictment charging them with fraud, the three men made US$7.3 million from the scheme.

The three men worked at NatWest Bank, now part of Royal Bank of Scotland.

Their case ignited an outcry in the UK over the fairness of an extradition treaty with the US, which has not ratified it.

As a condition of their release into Cogdell's custody, Bermingham and Darby posted US$100,000 bail and Mulgrew posted US$50,000.

Mulgrew also offered his shares in a Glasgow soccer team worth US$345,000. The judge did not accept the offer, but he required that they all wear electronic monitoring devices until their next court appearance.

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