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July 23, 2020

Arif Naqvi case: US prisons don’t adhere to international HR standards


July 23, 2020

LONDON: Lawyers of businessman and Karachi-born founder of the Abraaj Group Arif Naqvi have told the Westminster Magistrates’ Court that conditions at Essex County Prison, amongst many other prisons in the US system, do not adhere to international human rights standards – hence raising a bar to extradition.

Arif Naqvi continued to battle extradition to the United States at a court hearing yesterday with his lawyers led by Hugo Keith QC.

Chief Magistrate Lady Emma Arbuthnot at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard from the US government lawyer Mark Summers QC that Mr Naqvi will be held at the Essex County Prison near Hudson River and that they would attempt to have diplomatic assurances provided for his good treatment in the event of his extradition to the United States, where he faces a sensational federal indictment of 16 charges and 300 years in prison if found guilty.

Mark Summers QC introduced this new prison in response to some significant evidence introduced in June by Hugo Keith QC to shed light on either of the initial two prisons that he was meant to be kept at - Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) or Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC).

In the latest development, the US, through Mark Summer QC, agreed to have him remanded to a third facility - Essex County Prison.

Arif Naqvi’s lawyer rejected the proposal and tore into the prison conditions once again shedding further light on the existence of clear breaches of Article 3 in the current and previously proposed prisons.

Hugo Keith QC, acting on behalf of Mr Naqvi, told the court that Essex County Prison is where detainees liable for deportation are held and therefore, conditions are bad, degrading and would not be satisfactory. The US also denies many rights to non-US nationals in the prison system, including the prison camp option, which is available to first time offenders in white collar crimes if they are US nationals and would not be offered to 60 year old Arif Naqvi with existing serious medical conditions. He said if one was to simply look at the press coverage, it has been established that deaths are routinely taking place at Essex County Prison. A google search in first instance already revealed that numerous prison employees have anonymously provided information on just how bad the prison conditions are.

Hugo Keith QC told the court that while the Wall Street Journal has made allegations of tens of millions of dollars being misused by Mr Naqvi, the fact remains that there is no evidence or basis for this and there has been no finding of any guilt in any court of true justice.

Within the administrative hearing that took place today with a view to set a date, Arif Naqvi’s lawyers asked on account of his exemplary behavior and strict adherence to all conditions that he be granted certain relaxations – namely to be able to freely move around in London for set periods during the day to attend meetings, and to also relax the amount of bail securities being held by the court – which is an astonishing £15 million in cash, put up mainly by friends and former business associates of Arif Naqvi in light of his own dire financial condition.

The judge rejected both requests and kept the same conditions in place, because of significant resistance from Mark Summers QC on the alleged guilt of Arif Naqvi.

The judge did however grant two weeks for Mr Naqvi to spend time with his family in the UK countryside subject to the same restrictions that he faces in his current apartment with the judge plainly referring to Mr Naqvi as being under arrest at home in place of being under arrest in prison.

The United States government wants to extradite Arif Naqvi from London to New York on sensational allegations of money laundering, racketeering and fraud. Arif Naqvi faces close to an incredible 300 years in jail on 16 counts if extradited to the US. The Abraaj Group founder has been unable to defend himself against the US allegations during the extradition trial but he has, through his lawyers, denied all allegations. His legal team has maintained that Arif Naqvi has done nothing wrong and he took decisions to ensure that all monies of the US investors were returned and repaid in full, with interest.

Hugo Keith QC has repeatedly commented on Naqvi’s present condition and deteriorating mental state of mind because of the difficulties of having to manage and fight this process under the basis of very strict and tight guidelines, where the frustration of not being able to truly give evidence to defend himself unless in a ‘US court of law’, has grown painful and tiresome.

Scotland Yard arrested Arif Naqvi over a year ago in London on the US request. The UK authorities have confirmed that Arif Naqvi was not accused of any wrongdoing in the UK and there are no allegations against him on UK soil from where he conducted a major and substantial part of the operations of Abraaj, second only to the Dubai office.

The extradition judge has heard that Arif Naqvi’s Abraaj Group returned all monies to Bill Gates Foundation and other American investors with interest to the Healthcare fund were paid back to those investors in full with interest by December 31 2017. The case continues and next hearing will take place in December 2020.