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But Malcolm Hay, whose case has been the focus of serious concern because of the way the Greek authorities have acted, continues to plead his innocence and vows to appeal. He insists he has been framed and says the evidence clearly does not stack up against him, but acknowledges the proceedings have ruined his career.

He is awaiting the detailed judgment from the Greek courts before deciding exactly what steps to take next, but told ATG that his chief expert witness had not been called by the Athens court, while another had had their testimony dismissed without a proper hearing.

ATG first reported the case in February last year (Issue No 1828), as we revealed how the Greek authorities had invoked an anti-terrorist measure called a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) – set up after 9/11 to fast-track deportation of suspects for prosecution – in a bid to have Mr Hay sent to Greece.

At the time, London-based Mr Hay explained how he had been unwittingly caught up in a case of stolen Greek artefacts simply by doing business with a regular customer, a registered antiques dealer based in Athens. At the heart of the case was a dispute over the invoice he made out for the sale.

At one point Mr Hay was arrested at gunpoint at London’s City Airport and spent two days in custody before being taken before an extradition tribunal.

The need for speed in cases that use EAWs means they can be invoked without a scrap of evidence being put forward to support the charges, as happened in Mr Hay’s case.

His story came to light as Horseferry Road Magistrates Court discharged him on January 9, 2008, when the Crown Prosecution Service failed to show that an EAW issued by the Greek courts seeking his extradition was valid. Mr Hay was awarded costs.

He told ATG how his tale of woe had its origins in a transaction that took place in London in July 1999. At the time he saw it as no more than simply the latest in a number of sales he had made over several years to the Athens dealer.

And he explained that it was not until Interpol contacted him in September 2000, asking for an interview regarding the transaction, that he was aware that anything might be wrong. He duly gave the interview, but, despite several attempts, never succeeded in obtaining a copy of the statement he gave.

Having no further formal contact with either the British or Greek authorities on the issue, Mr Hay told ATG how he believed that was the end of the matter. And for seven years it was.

But then he described how, on July 14, 2007, returning to London’s City Airport from abroad, he was told that there was a problem with his passport. It turned out to be a delaying tactic while the police were alerted. After an hour’s wait, officers armed with automatic weapons arrived and told Mr Hay that he was the subject of an EAW. He was handcuffed and taken to Stratford police station where he was held for two days in the cells and then taken before an extradition tribunal.

It was only then that he learnt the true extent of what had been going on in the Athens courts and how he had become embroiled in the matter.

At the centre of the case was a dispute over whether the items he sold the Athens dealer were the same as those seized from her by the Greek authorities as suspected stolen artefacts.

Mr Hay said an invoice he issued for the sale of a small number of minor artefacts and broken pieces was used by the Greek dealer to explain away a large number of important but stolen artefacts in her possession. What is astonishing, he says, is that the Greek courts accepted the Athens dealer’s explanation despite the invoice not matching the objects she claims in any way.

Following his UK arrest and remand in custody, Mr Hay was released on £20,000 bail and spent the next six months fighting extradition in the English courts and simultaneously charges of theft in the Greek criminal court relating to the 1999 transaction.

His eventual discharge at Horseferry Road came because magistrates ruled that the Crown Prosecution Service had failed to clarify whether or not the EAW was valid because of the lack of a formal summons in the Greek courts.

He was awarded costs, but there is no allowance for compensation for unjust arrest and other losses under the law.

It is not just the lack of requirement to show prima facie evidence that makes EAWs an attractive option for states demanding the deportation of suspects; under European Union rules, the state requesting extradition bears none of the deportation costs nor the ongoing legal expenses. Instead those are paid by the extraditing state. So the Greek courts would bear none of the costs of prosecuting Mr Hay.

Mr Hay’s lawyers claim that the accusations against him were made in bad faith and largely with a view to obtaining his extradition, arguments that were never fully tested in the English court, as the Greek prosecutor had already conceded that the warrant was seriously flawed in other ways.

The most worrying aspect of the litigation was that, at an earlier hearing before the extradition tribunal, the court had ruled that, although Mr Hay had made every transaction in London, the Greek court could claim jurisdiction over the alleged crime.

The Greek prosecutor also alleged that Mr Hay had been active and present in Greece at a certain time in 1999 when Mr Hay was clear that he was never in Greece, and no evidence was presented that he had been. This accusation, however, rendered extradition far more sustainable in law. Even the Greek counter-party in the transaction, who has now been acquitted of all charges, stated in her evidence that the relevant sale and delivery took place in London.

As Mr Hay explained to ATG last year: “Under the Treaty Britain has signed in 2003, an EAW prevents the court here from investigating evidence and the precise nature of the accusation. The accused is treated straight away as a convict, and has no opportunity of demonstrating his innocence.”

By Ivan Macquisten