LONDON: The United States government has offered that former Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi will not be held at two prison facilities — Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) or Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) — and that he will be held in an alternative prison in the event that Westminster Magistrate’s Court ordered his extradition to face 16 charges.
This is in addition to an earlier commitment that he would be allowed bail if extradited. At what was supposed to be the last summing up date of the extradition hearing at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the US government lawyer Mark Summers QC scrambled at the 11th hour to try and offer assurances that Naqvi will be held in alternative prison.
The US government’s lawyer confirmed to the court that he had sought assurance from his own client in the US about Naqvi. The US government lawyer initially provided an undertaking in an attempt to get Naqvi to the US on the premise he would get bail when in the US but the US government did not provide full guarantees.
On Wednesday, Naqvi’s lawyers said the undertaking could not be relied upon and showed instances where judges have denied “joint bail applications” by both prosecution and defence with defendants still being imprisoned and denied bail.
The US lawyer attempted to offer an assurance and said they would come back but could not tell where and what the terms of the assurance were but he promised that the prison facility would not be MCC or MDC in the event of pre-trial detention.
Summers asked the court for two weeks to provide an understanding of the assurance and pushed for not calling evidence which was meant to be heard on Wednesday.
Once the location would be known, the Chief Magistrate would then have to give the defence time to respond and hence will require further hearings to determine the next steps. The judge has indicated that there are real risks in her pre-provisional view associated to US prisons after evidence submitted showed breaches of human conditions.
Hugo Keith QC, Naqvi’s lawyer, said: “This undertaking has come in the 11th hour and the 59th minute of the 11th hour with no understanding of what the assurance actually is. We know nothing about the assurance and if the assurance is not found to be acceptable then you (the Chief Magistrate) will have to consider risks of MCC / MDC.
He added: “It is clear US government is using a complete end-around of the US justice system in an attempt to save their case. MCC and MDC evidence has been known by them since 23rd January and they have had six months to consider that.”
Naqvi’s lawyer had explained to the court the risks Naqvi will face in the US including racism, threats to health and denial of justice.
Keith said: “It’s quite plain that what is a tactical chicanery that US government is trying to take some action against an adverse ruling to them.”
The US while conceding that Naqvi would not be held in MCC and MDC and were willing to give assurances, maintained during the trial that there is no real risk of detention and so evidence is irrelevant and even if it was, evidence of anonymous hearsay accounts at both facilities do not cross the threshold.
It will now take two weeks for the assurance process and a case management hearing will take place on 21st of July. The full hearing will likely take place in or around September.