LONDON: The Westminster Magistrates’ Court has ordered the extradition of Abraaj Group founder and businessman Arif Naqvi to face charges of fraud, money-laundering and racketeering which carry, in total, an incredible 300 years in prison.
Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot ordered that the Pakistani national businessman should be extradited to the US and that his safety and rights will not be at risk in the US jail as argued by Naqvi’s lawyer during the extradition hearings.
Arif Naqvi expressed no emotions when the decision was read out. Arif Naqvi’s lawyer will appeal against the extradition at the London High Court. He didn’t speak to the media when he arrived at the court with his lawyers ahead of the decision but exchanged pleasantries with the reporters when he was leaving the court.
Arif Masood Naqvi is accused of 16 counts of fraud and related money- laundering said to have been committed between 2014 and 2018. American government has described him as the “leader of a criminal enterprise that quoted Abraaj”.
The judge noted in her decision that the alleged fraud started unravelling in September 2017 when an anonymous email was sent to some of the investors. Funds were also said to have been used to bribe a politician in Pakistan to obtain approval for the sale of Abraaj’s stake in an electrical energy utility company, according to the judgment released by the Ministry of Justice.
The judge accepted that Arif Naqvi has mental health issues and this deteriorated during the extradition proceedings at Westminster. The judge rejected almost all grounds relied on by the legal team of Pakistani businessman and wrote that she was satisfied with the assurances given by the US administration that Mr Naqvi will have the right to a fair trial; his human rights will not be impacted and he will be provided a reasonably safe environment to live in.
She ruled: “The burden on the defence is less than on the balance of probabilities but the risk must be more than fanciful. The prosecution and defence rely on different authorities but there is no dispute that the burden of establishing the real risk lays on Arif Naqvi”.
The judge accepted that there are gangs in some if not all of the housing units and that there are leadership issues in some jails. accept that there are some bad apples amongst the correctional officers and there is also some violence amongst the prisoners.
“Finally, I accept that the prison is having the same trouble with COVID-19 that each prison in every country is having, staff are off with COVID-19 or self-isolating which is causing a staff shortage”.
The judge noted she was satisfied that Mr Naqvi will live in a special dormitory reserved not just for Federal inmates but for those who are aged 50 and over and have no disciplinary issues.
She said she didn’t accept that the gangs in that unit would be able to threaten Arif Naqvi with impunity or be allowed to flourish. She said the US soil is the right forum for Mr Naqvi to stand trial and not London as Mr Naqvi held Abraaj meetings in the US “when misrepresentations to the investments were made” and “harm was caused to the US investors”.