UK judge allows extradition of Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi to US

Published January 28, 2021
This file photo shows Abraaj founder and Chief Executive Arif Naqvi speaking at an event. — Reuters
This file photo shows Abraaj founder and Chief Executive Arif Naqvi speaking at an event. — Reuters

A judge at United Kingdom's Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday rejected the arguments made by Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi’s counsel and ordered the case to the Secretary of State for her decision.

He can choose to appeal the decision under section 92 of the Extradition Act 2003 once the Home Secretary makes one.

Naqvi, whose extradition hearing started last year, is among several people charged by US prosecutors with being part of an international scheme to defraud investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Naqvi previously denied the charges through a public relations firm.

In her written judgement, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled there were no bars to extradition under several articles of Britain's 2003 Extradition Act.

But for human rights considerations, the judge said she would refer the case to the British government for a decision on whether Naqvi should be extradited.

Naqvi’s lawyers had argued that US authorities intended to rely extensively on the evidence of his co-accused Sev Vettivettipillai, a former managing director of Abraaj, who was based in the UK.

Dubai-based Abraaj was the largest buyout fund in the Middle East and North Africa until it collapsed in 2018 after investors raised concerns about the management of its $1 billion healthcare fund.

Naqvi’s lawyers had said at the time that the extradition request should be refused as a substantial part of his activity central to the US allegations was based in London, including Abraaj’s investor coverage team, in addition to his family ties to the city.

“If the group had a beating heart it was in Dubai, but its mind and control was wherever Arif was, which was often in London, which is where the main investor coverage operation was,” the defence’s skeleton argument had quoted Adnan Siddiqui, Abraaj’s former general counsel, as saying.

If extradited, the document said, there were grounds for believing Naqvi might be detained before a US trial.

In New York, he might be held in either the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) or the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC), the defence said, adding conditions would be incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

If convicted in the US, Naqvi was most likely to be sentenced to over 30 years’ imprisonment and could begin serving that sentence in a high security institution, the document said further.

Naqvi's lawyers had also argued he was a suicide risk, suffering from severe depression and showing signs of psychotic episodes.

Naqvi's defence team did not immediately respond to a question on whether it planned to appeal the ruling.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleges Naqvi and his firm raised money for the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund, collecting more than $100mn over three years from US-based charitable organisations and other US investors.

According to the SEC's complaint, Naqvi misappropriated money from the health fund and commingled it with corporate funds of Abraaj Investment Management and its parent company, and used them for purposes unrelated to the health fund.

Naqvi was arrested in the United Kingdom in 2019 and was released from custody on bail the same year.


Additional input from Reuters.

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