LONDON: The Westminster Magistrates’ Court has ordered the extradition of Abraaj founder and renowned Pakistani 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 jails as argued by Naqvi’s lawyer during the extradition hearings.
Arif Naqvi expressed no emotions when the decision was readout. Arif Naqvi’s lawyer will appeal against the extradition at the London High Court. He didn’t speak to media when he arrived at the court with his lawyers ahead of the decision.
The decision comes weeks after a similar request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was blocked by Judge Vanessa Baraitser.
The US request to extradite Assange was blocked on basis of the 49-year-old Australian editor’s deteriorating physical and mental health conditions, with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser saying she refused due to “fears that he could commit suicide”, similar in Naqvi’s case as his lawyers have publicly stated during the proceedings before the chief magistrate, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot.
Judge Baraitser had ruled at the Old Bailey court on January 4, 2021, that Assange could not be extradited to the US due to risks pertaining to his mental health and took notice to the submissions by the editor’s lawyers in relation to increased concerns that came to light in recent years over prison conditions at the US facilities.
Several expert witnesses appeared during the Arif Naqvi case proceedings to testify before the judge about conditions at the US prison facilities where the Pakistani businessperson would likely be held.
It is notable that while most white-collar detainees in the US — mainly Americans — are held in open prisons or camps, the same would not be the case for The Abraaj Group founder as he is a foreign national and would therefore be subjected to a medium-security prison at the very least. American prisons are notoriously gang-ridden, with violence and drugs rampant across the system, sometimes with the help of those who work in the prisons themselves.
James Troisi, one of the expert witnesses who has held various senior positions at the ECC, was quoted as saying: “There are certainly bad apples in the mix of sworn staff.
“There have been instances where sworn staff — either through cowardice or attentiveness — allowed physical altercations to continue without a response,” Troisi testified.
“Mr Naqvi will be seen as a man of means and there will be people that will want him to provide commissary purchases and provide goods if he wants to eat tomorrow”.
Six expert witnesses in total have provided evidence to the UK court, noting that sending Naqvi to a US jail would compromise his human rights, endanger his life by exposing him to potential violence, and likely result in no access to proper medication and adequate care for his health.
Apart from Troisi, others who gave video testimonies to support their written ones in the last hearing included Michael Baldassare, Joel Sickler, James Joshua Dratel, and Lindsay Lewis.
Baldassare, a lawyer and an expert witness, apprised the court of the situation at the Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF), saying it was “chaos”, while conditions were as bad as those at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility (MCC) in Manhattan and Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn.
Sickler, another expert, commented that prisons are “psychologically and emotionally debilitating for prisoners in the US… prisons are inherently dysfunctional in the US” and that he was already traumatised by the seven weeks spent in HM Prison Wandsworth.
Back in April 2019, Naqvi was arrested in London on a request from the US over allegations of money laundering, racketeering, and fraud. The Pakistani national faces close to an incredible 300 years in jail on 16 counts if extradited to America despite, as an earlier hearing was told, all investors getting their money back.
Naqvi has through his lawyers continued to strongly protest the disturbingly long, 300-year sentence.