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Extraordinary Extradition: The Brian and Kerry Ann Howes Story

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     At 45 years of age, Brian Howes's appearance is so working-class ordinary one would never suspect this citizen of United Kingdom and his 31-year-old wife might become the newest link in the chain gang at the notorious tent prison run by the famous “America’s toughest sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona. Afterall, Howes resides in Bo'ness, Scotland, thousands of miles from the pink underwear wearing prisoners Arpaio claims cost less to feed than the guard dogs.

    In September 2006, a federal grand jury in Phoenix, Arizona, issued a 82-count indictment against Howes and his, then, girlfriend Kerry Ann Shanks as part of an international investigation of approximately 100 methamphetamine labs.  Prosecutors of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency have alleged the British couple sold iodine and red phosphorus (chemicals regulated in the United States and illegal to import, though legal to sell in the United Kingdom) to illegal labs in the United States, New Zealand and other countries that used the ingredients to produce Crystal meth: a form of amphetamine that is crystallized so it can be smoked, producing a high that can last for up to 12 hours. 

     So, why bother to waste the writer and his readers’ time on two, alleged, parasites who maintained their lives by destroying the lives of millions? Because the couple are not permitted to present evidence of their innocence, that is why.  Perhaps elements of post 911 and a little known and one-sided extradition/rendition treaty between the United States and Great Britain may prove a very worthwhile read.


     According to British website, “In March 2003, the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, signed the deeply unfair Extradition Treaty between the UK and the USA. This removed the requirement on the United States to provide prima facie evidence (evidence which unless rebutted, would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact) when requesting the extradition of people from the UK. It maintained, however, the requirement on the UK to provide evidence to satisfy the US constitution’s ‘probable cause’ when seeking the extradition of US nationals…The Government had signed us up to a treaty which means that citizens of this country enjoy fewer protections regarding extradition than our American counterparts. They have a written constitution to protect them. We are not so fortunate.”


     To simplify: the United States only has to provide a written accusation of alleged lawbreaking for the accused to be remanded to prison indefinitely without traditional rights to a timely preliminary hearing. The United States only has to provide a statement of the facts they hope to prove, yet, in accusations against Americans, the UK still must provide evidence of probable cause.

     “The treaty was signed in March but only released to Parliament in May, just as MPs were leaving for the Whitsun recess. The resulting Extradition Act 2003 was pushed through the House by junior ministers without a word from the Prime Minister. The Act came into force in November and Article 69 allowed the Home Secretary to designate category 2 countries (non-EU) by way of Statutory Instrument. The resulting SI covered the United States, among some other countries with dubious human rights records, was rushed through just as Parliament was finishing for Christmas. When this came into force, it meant that the UK-US Extradition Treaty was signed and ratified with no prior debate and no parliamentary vote. It was signed in secret by The Home Secretary under royal prerogative powers. As further evidence of the treaty’s lop-sided nature, we signed it unilaterally - the United States did not even ratify it until 2006.”__

     So, what was obviously a treaty crafted with international terrorism in mind, like many other panic-driven legislation (Patriot Acts, Terrorist Surveillance Bill, Extraordinary Renditions; etc) the Bush Administration shoved through the United States Congress, intent gave way to the unintended. Common criminal activity becomes no different than terrorism and no longer requires indulgences of rights to the accused that had been honored since King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215 A.D.

     Brian Howes and Kerry Ann Shanks were arrested by Central Scotland Police, on the behalf of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, January 2007 at their home near Falkirk. US authorities claimed the evidence against the couple included incriminating e-mails and false or misleading packaging. Undercover agents from the US authorities had posed as customers.

     Howes and Shanks were charged with selling illegal chemicals online that “could be used in terrorism”. (source) The charge on it’s face is such an obvious corruption of the “War On Terrorism” that it could easily be used to deny due process rights to any British citizen accused of any criminal activity as long as the word “terrorism” is incorporated in any written accusation from the United States.

     Twenty years ago, Howes worked in a chroming factory that manufactured nickel plates, and where he gained experience working with chemicals.

     “I’ve always made my own fireworks and, when a business venture went bust in 2001, I realised the potential of buying chemicals wholesale and selling them over the internet,” Howes claims. “I started off buying pyrotechnics nitrate, charcoal and sulphur, which are accelerants for fireworks, and built my business up from there.” source pdf

     Iodine and red phosphorus were just two of about 60 substances the Howes’ business offered for sale, and Howes denies he broke any UK laws selling the chemicals through his and his wife, Kerry’s, internet business Lab Chemicals International. He insists he regularly informed UK authorities about his sales and only sold to people with credit cards and verifiable addresses. The Health and Safety Executive in Edinburgh did substantiate its inspections, on a number of occasions, of the physical site of Howes’ business, finding fault only with how the entrepreneur stored chemicals. 

     We ran a legitimate business and have broken no laws whatsoever in the UK. We have spent 214 days in prison without being charged for anything and our lives are already in ruins because of this. Where is the justice? Where is our right to a fair trial in the UK?”__Brian Howes source pdf 

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Retired, Robert Arend was president of an AFSCME local from 1997-2007.
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