A UK-based businessman named Gypsy Nirvana is facing extradition to the US for allegedly distributing cannabis seeds. His lawyers are fighting the decision, arguing that his activities are legal in the UK.
Nirvana will face the High Court in London on Thursday. The defendant has previously thwarted a covert-style extradition attempt from the US government.
The 57-year-old is facing trial in Maine over charges relating to the production, distribution, possession, import and export of cannabis seeds between 2004 and 2013. Nirvana denies the charges, and other allegations of money laundering.
Nirvana now runs his seed-selling business from an office in London. He legally changed his name to Gypsy Nirvana by deed poll 15 years ago. He was once a roadie for the Clash, worked in the Hong Kong film business, and drove around rock stars, including the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood.
The colorful character is preparing another legal battle against the US government after it attempted to covertly extradite him in 2013. Five years ago he was detained by local police in the Philippines and forcibly put on a flight that would have passed through Los Angeles on its way to London.
His legal counsel, extradition barrister Ben Cooper, told the Westminster Magistrates Court that it was an attempt to subject him to “disguised extradition.” Cooper purports that removing his client via a specific flight would have led to him being detained illegally in the US.
Nirvana escaped the plane in Manila, suspicious of the flight plan. He then languished for 30 months in a Filipino prison before UK embassy officials arranged his deportation back to the UK. When he returned, US authorities launched extradition proceedings against him.
Westminster magistrates court initially threw out the first attempt by the US to have the cannabis advocate extradited. US authorities are appealing that decision.
Dismissing the case made by the US, the magistrate ruled that Nirvana’s seed business was not illegal in the UK. While, UK law prohibits possession and sale of the buds and leaves of the cannabis plant, the prohibition does not extend to the seeds.
As lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service – acting on behalf of the US – failed to establish there was a similar criminal offence in both jurisdictions, the judge rejected the extradition application.
“I have done nothing wrong. These are seeds from a medicinal plant. I have been a legal seed dealer in the UK since the 1990s,” Nirvana told the Guardian. “The seeds do not have any [active ingredient] THC in them. There’s no drug in the seeds. You can smoke the seeds all day and all you will get is a headache.
“But cannabis seeds are considered a schedule 1 narcotic in the US, the same as heroin. So if Trump gets his way they could execute me over the seeds of a medicinal plant.”
The Crown Prosecutors Service confirmed that the case will be heard on Thursday, but declined to comment further.
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