Malcolm Hay’s plight first came to media attention two years ago when it was revealed that the Greek authorities had applied to have him deported to Athens under a European Arrest Warrant, a measure devised to fast track suspects in terrorism cases.
Antiquities dealer Mr Hay told ATG that the Greek courts were using the EAW because the measure didn’t require them to show any evidence pointing to his guilt and because any costs associated with the prosecution would fall on the UK.
The UK authorities are already looking into other cases after serious concerns were raised over the abuse of the EAW system by overseas courts.
As ATG reported at the time of Mr Hay’s first court hearing, the EAW was linked to a transaction between him and an Athens-based antiquities dealer dating from 1999.
At the centre of the case was a dispute over whether the items he sold to 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 in any way.
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.
Although the transaction dated back to 1999, the first Mr Hay became aware that anything was wrong was on July 14, 2007, when he returned to London’s City Airport from abroad. He was told that there was a problem with his passport, but 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.
He suffered a similar shock on February 2 this year when he returned to the UK from another overseas trip only to be arrested again and removed from the plane at Heathrow. He then spent a night in the cells before appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court.
“I was brought before the same judge who had presided at the last tribunal in 2007/8 and she remembered the case and wondered if she had not already dealt with it,” he told ATG.
“The problem is that when I was sentenced and an appeal was lodged, the sentence was suspended until the hearing of the appeal, but there is a ‘caution’ applied which should be paid.”
He had been given legal advice not to pay the caution, which had led to the issue of a new EAW against him on the same charges. “We are intending to pay the caution now and apply to have the warrant eliminated by the Greeks but it is not clear [if this will happen]. I could again face legal action to extradite me to Greece, and there is a good chance that it would succeed.”
Mr Hay, who claims he was framed by the Athens dealer in the case, was outraged that he could not be represented during the trial, because he would have first had to submit himself to Greek custody.
He is due back in court on February 24 for a further hearing.
By Ivan Macquisten