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Court to rule Thursday on extraditing former Austrian banker

Court to rule Thursday on extraditing former Austrian banker

A prosecutor argued Tuesday that there is no reason not to extradite to Austria the former head of a bank tied to last year's collapse of U.S. commodities brokerage Refco Inc.
The court was to rule Thursday on whether to extradite 71-year-old Helmut Elsner, rejecting a demand by his lawyer for a further delay.
"There is no reason to pronounce a delay in handing over Elsner," said prosecutor Bertrand Charpentier, referring to the results of a medical exam ordered by French judicial authorities.
Defense lawyer Gerard Baudoux claimed there remained a "grave risk" to his client's health and sought new tests. He said Elsner suffers from heart problems.
Elsner, the former general manager of BAWAG bank, was taken into custody Sept. 14 at his mansion in southern France. Soon afterward, he was brought to La Timone hospital in Marseille, complaining of a heart ailment. He left the hospital Oct. 10 after paying euro1 million in bail to return to his mansion in Mougins before being hospitalized anew.
Elsner, who was not present for the court hearing, has vowed to fight extradition.
BAWAG, the acronym for Bank Fuer Arbeit und Wirtschaft AG _ Austria's fourth-largest financial institution _ has been under investigation for loaning former Refco CEO Phillip Bennett several hundred million dollars just before the brokerage filed for bankruptcy in October.
Authorities have said that Elsner was not arrested earlier because he allegedly was in poor health.
But Austrian Justice Ministry spokesman Christoph Poechinger said last month that investigators had determined the former BAWAG boss was not in as frail as his lawyers claimed. Poechinger also said French police had been asked to pick Elsner up because he was considered to be a flight risk.