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Friday June 21, 2024

UK extradites Pakistani to US

Asif Hafeez loses legal battle at British, European courts; insists he’s a victim of a conspiracy

By Murtaza Ali Shah
May 17, 2023
Pakistani businessman Muhammad Asif Hafeez. — Provided by author
Pakistani businessman Muhammad Asif Hafeez. — Provided by author

LONDON: Pakistani national Asif Hafeez has been extradited to the United States from London’s high-security Belmarsh prison to face charges on alleged drugs and narcotics importation – after fighting a US extradition warrant for six years.

Family and lawyers of Asif Hafeez have alleged abuse of process by the US and UK authorities, accusing the UK government of illegally sending Hafeez to the US authorities, while his lawyers were preparing to file an application against the unanimous decision of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) at the ECHR and also at the CCHR’s Grand Chamber.

Sources at Britain’s Home Office have confirmed to Geo and The News Asif Hafeez, the former Pakistani gold trader from Lahore who worked out of Dubai, has been sent to the US after he had exhausted all his legal options, and that he is now detained at a high security prison in New York.

While Asif Hafeez put up a long fight, events unfolded quickly over the last month.

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights rejected Hafeez’s application regarding life without parole and declared it as inadmissible. His lawyers applied at the UK High Court’s administrative section to reopen the extradition case on new grounds, but this appeal was rejected by the British Court on April 26, 2023.

Family sources said Asif Hafeez’s European lawyer Emmanuel Ruchat was preparing a revision application to the ECtHR, and at the same time his UK lawyer Sandip Patel had written to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on April 28, 2023 to inform them the revision application is being prepared. But, the CPS and the Home Office ordered Hafeez’s immediate extradition.

“Hafeez was denied justice and he has been taken out illegally. Upon receiving a negative response from the UK authorities, Hafeez’s European attorney prepared an application and the ECtHR allowed time to submit a full application till 26th May 2023, but Hafeez got extradited prior to that submission,” said a family member speaking to this reporter.

Asif Hafeez was detained in London in 2017 by Scotland Yard on the US request for six years.

The former trained commercial pilot has been described as “big boss”, “the Sultan” and the “number one in the world” for heroin and hashish in the US charges. He was charged with conspiracy to import heroin into the US; conspiracy to import methamphetamine and hashish into the US and aiding and abetting the manufacture/distribution of heroin knowing and intending that it would be imported into the US.

Asif Hafeez has denied all charges, saying he is a victim of a wider US conspiracy. His lawyers had presented evidence in the court Hafeez actually worked as a credible informant for the spy agencies and law enforcement of US, UK, Pakistan and UAE helped bust several drugs import shipments.

Hafeez said he didn’t want to be tried in the US because there was a real risk he would be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

The US government intensified its efforts to take Hafeez out after snatching Kenya’s Akasha brothers Baktash Akasha Abdalla, Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, Bollywood star Mamta Kalkarni’s husband Vicky Goswami and Ghulam Hussain from Kenyan soil in January 2017 in violation of the local court orders. Since then, Indian national Vicky Goswami has turned into a witness against the Pakistani national.

Akasha brothers, who have been convicted and imprisoned in the US, have refused to indict Asif Hafeez, maintaining he didn’t do any drugs dealing with them and that the charges against him are false and fabricated.

A former FBI-DEA agent Kamran Faridi has said in a statement to the lawyers of Hafeez his handlers at the FBI asked him many times to trap Asif Hafeez while he was working on an entrapment mission targeting Karachi businessman Jabir Motiwala and Dawood Ibrahim.

Milesh Tareja, a veteran spy who has worked for both the US and Australian agencies, has said in a written statement his US handlers spoke to him about Asif Hafeez and about Pakistani matters.

Court papers show Asif Hafeez had been under the US scanner since at least 2004. Ommer Faruke Kolia, a British national of Indian origin from Leicester, detailed his story in a written witness statement on February 19, 2018 sent to the lawyers of Asif Hafeez in London. Ommer Faruke Kolia died in highly mysterious circumstances four months later on June 21, 2018.

Kamran Faridi, who worked as a spy for the US authorities for over two decades, has also provided a statement to the lawyers of Asif Hafeez. He says in the statement his bosses at FBI and DEA would often ask him to trap Asif Hafeez.

The American government says it has secretly recorded statements of Baktash Akasha, Goswami and Hussain confirming Hafeez’s participation in the heroin deal and his 2015 text message to Goswami. It shows Hafeez was concerned about US law enforcement targeting him based on his participation in the transaction following the arrests in Kenya of Baktash Akasha, Ibrahim Akasha, Goswami and Hussain. Asif Hafeez’s family said they don’t expect any justice in the US. The US government assured the UK courts Asif Hafeez’s fundamental rights will be protected in the US custody.