Fugitive from U.S. arrested

2008-12-05 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG-born man, who has been sought by the FBI for almost a year, was flown out of KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday to face charges of raping young girls in America.

Graham Harding (39) handed himself over at the United States consulate in Durban on Tuesday.

Weekend Witness learnt that FBI agents arrived in the country to look for him a few weeks ago.

The U.S. investigation bureau believed Harding was hiding either in Pietermaritzburg or in Durban, where he has relatives.

According to close sources, he was under pressure to hand himself over after family members and friends read about his case in The Witness on November 28.

Both Interpol and the U.S. consulate confirmed that Harding had handed himself over.

Interpol spokeswoman Tumi Golding said the consulate handed Harding to the SAPS, which took him to Johannesburg to hand him to FBI agents on Thursday.

He was immediately flown out of South Africa accompanied by the agents.

“The fact that he voluntarily handed himself over avoided the long process of going though extradition paperwork,” said Golding.

Harding’s close relative, who lives in the U.S. state of Florida, said she received a message from his family in Pietermaritzburg that Harding went with his father to hand himself over to the U.S. authorities in Durban on Monday, (Tuesday in South African time).

Harding, who is originally from Pietermaritzburg, left America for KwaZulu-Natal late last year after he allegedly confessed to raping the two minors, who were at the time close to him and under the age of 11.

He evaded arrest after he had also promised to hand himself over to the police.

U.S. Consulate spokeswoman Sharon Hudson-Dean said Harding will appear in a district court in Florida to face four charges within 24 hours after landing.

Besides rape, he will also be charged with evading prosecution.

Harding, who was a professional skydiver, moved to America in 1998. There he was married to an American citizen for 10 years, but was later divorced after confessing to the rapes.

When contacted yesterday, the relative, who cannot be named, said: “Thanks to the citizens of KwaZulu-Natal and your paper for putting pressure on this guy to hand himself over. I hear that there was a lot of pressure on him.

“Maybe after the conviction I will find it in my heart to forgive him if that will benefit the victims.

“However, for now that is still far from my mind,” said the relative.

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