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The recent decision by the international courts to allow Suffolk CC to extradite a businessman back to Suffolk from...
The recent decision by the international courts to allow Suffolk CC to extradite a businessman back to Suffolk from Germany is a landmark case. This is not only because it is believed to be a first for a trading standards department, but also because it has been an important learning opportunity.

The case dates back to 2000. After months of investigating Peter Murray Cowan, we brought the case to be heard in December 2001 at Ipswich Crown Court. We had brought a large number of charges relating to the alleged counterfeiting of business software.

It was important to see these through to trial. The alleged offences were estimated to have cost local businesses something around £5m - very damaging to our local economy.

When he failed to show at the court, a warrant without bail was issued. The search went cold when he left the country and nothing was heard until October 2002 when, out of the blue, we received a phone call from Microsoft. A man had been stopped on the Bavarian border, his Audi full of alleged counterfeit software, and Microsoft thought it may just be the man wanted in Suffolk.

We were in new territory as we had never pursued a case through the overseas courts and were not aware of any test case. It was to prove a new and exciting experience.

The next stage was to formally identify the man held in German prison. Since the only photo of Mr Murray Cowan available was one taken by the Ipswich local newspaper, this was sent. This and fingerprint records confirmed it was him.

Once identified, Mr Murray Cowan was then arrested under an international arrest warrant and trading standards had a 40-day period in which to submit evidence for his extradition. The dossier was handed over to be signed off by the Home Office and then forwarded to Interpol.

Since Mr Murray Cowan was held on other charges, the German courts had 'first bite'. Sooner than we expected, the authorities agreed he could be extradited to Suffolk and face trial in Ipswich.

The next stage will be the handover at Munich Airport where a trading standards officer and representative from Suffolk police will escort him back to Britain.

Extradition timescale:

-- 10 December 2001 - Mr Murray Cowan failed to appear at Ipswich Crown Court.

-- 28 October 2002 - Trading standards were contacted by Microsoft. Officers had 30 days to apply through Interpol for an international arrest warrant to extradite Mr Murray Cowan.

-- 26 March 2003 - German courts declared Mr Murray Cowan could be extradited.

Steve Greenfield

County trading standards officer,

Suffolk CC

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