Arif Naqvi, founder and Group CEO, Abraaj Capital, and Co-Chair of the Governors Meeting for Investors 2010 attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 27, 2010. — Reuters

Arif Naqvi, founder and Group CEO, Abraaj Capital, and Co-Chair of the Governors Meeting for Investors 2010 attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 27, 2010. — Reuters
  • Court refuses Naqvi’s permission to bring judicial review.
  • Naqvi’s lawyers claim he is suffering from severe depression.
  • Source close to Naqvi says he was considering options.

LONDON: The founder of collapsed private equity company Abraaj Group, Arif Naqvi, has lost a final bid to challenge his extradition from London to the United States to face charges of fraud carrying a sentence of nearly 300 years.

At the London High Court, Judge Jonathan Swift refused the Pakistani national’s permission to bring a judicial review against the 2021 approval of his extradition to the United States by the then-home secretary Priti Patel.

Naqvi’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald had told London’s High Court on Tuesday that his client was likely to be held in a New Jersey prison where he may have to share a dormitory with violent criminals.

Naqvi’s lawyers had approached the court with new evidence showing that the prison where he could be sent was full of violent criminals and that his life would be in danger in inhumane conditions.

The founder of the Abraaj Group also suffers from severe depression and there is a “real risk” of suicide if he is extradited, Fitzgerald had argued before the court.

He produced medical evidence in support of his arguments.

Naqvi’s lawyers argued that the 2021 ruling failed to take sufficient account of the US prison conditions to which their client, who suffers from poor health, would probably be subject.

Fitzgerald KC told the high court that conditions in Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey — where he was likely to be housed — would breach Naqvi’s human rights and affect his mental health as there was evidence of “intimidation by gangs”.

However, lawyers representing the US government said Naqvi has been given assurances that prosecutors will not oppose bail before he stands trial — if he was extradited to the United States.

Lawyer Mark Summers, representing the US government, said in court filings that the judge in Naqvi’s case is US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who granted bail to FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, which is a “strong indication” Naqvi will be granted bail.

Naqvi’s lawyers believe that the US authorities will change their minds if Naqvi was extradited to the US.

Summers KC argued that Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey would be able to treat and care for Naqvi appropriately.

Judge Swift ruled on Wednesday that there had been no “material change” in prison conditions since the 2021 ruling approving Naqvi’s extradition. The judge also said that Naqvi’s suicide risk could be adequately managed if he was held in a US prison.

After Wednesday’s ruling, Summers told the court that the US government had a 28-day period to make the necessary arrangements for “a safe and orderly surrender” by Naqvi to the US.

Naqvi is currently on bail after lodging £15mn security pending the extradition proceedings. He is living with his family at his apartment near Hyde Park.

Naqvi was charged by US prosecutors in 2019 over the collapse of Abraaj, a once high-flying emerging markets investment firm that managed $14bn at its peak for investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Prosecutors brought 16 counts of alleged fraud and money laundering allegations against Naqvi, claiming that the businessman was the driving force behind a $250mn scheme that inflated the values of Abraaj’s funds and diverted millions of dollars for his personal benefit.

Abraaj imploded in 2018 as investor concern over procedures at its $1bn healthcare fund intensified. Naqvi, who lives in London, has spent the past three years fighting US efforts to extradite him.

Naqvi, along with other executives of Abraaj Group, is charged with inflating the value of the Dubai-based firm’s holdings but he has strongly denied all allegations and maintains his innocence.

Naqvi’s lawyers have said that the US government was not being truthful in alleging that Naqvi took money out for his personal benefit at the expense of the group was incorrect where through each hearing their numbers changed given the rebuttals by Naqvi’s lawyers.

They have said that any monies which Naqvi had taken out were legally entitled to him through his contractual arrangements with the company. They have said no monies were moved from funds to Naqvi’s direct personal benefit directly from the funds — and moreover, that the US allegations were in fact wrong, incorrect, and misleading.

Naqvi’s lawyers have said that towards the end of 2017 and early 2018, all funds of the Gates Foundation along with all other investors in the Healthcare fund were returned in full, and with interest — meaning that the Gates foundation did not suffer any economic loss at all.

They have said that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US accepted monies had been returned.

Previously experts had told the UK High Court that the Pakistani national will not just be denied basic human rights if extradited to the United States given inhumane prison conditions but also that he would not receive a fair trial.

The expert witness and lawyer Micahel Baldassare had told a UK court that the situation at the Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF) is “chaos”.

The expert witness had told the court that during the trial Naqvi would be woken up at 4am, shackled at 5am and put onto a transport to New York for an hour-long drive.

He would then spend the day either in Court or custody and then be sent back to New Jersey after the proceedings ended for the day.

This would be repeated for the duration of the trial which he estimated at close to three months, and that too after a period of years in which two terabytes of data about his company was investigated for evidence.

Baldessare said as it stands today in the USA, people are dying, lawyers are dying and nobody knows what’s going on.

Naqvi had argued before the extradition judge at the Westminster Magistrates’ that the USA should not be allowed to extradite him for trial there in relation to the collapse of the Abraaj Group.

A source close to Naqvi said he was considering options.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *