Arif Naqvi, the founder of failed private equity firm Abraaj, faces extradition from the UK to the US to stand trial on fraud allegations after London’s High Court refused to hear a last-ditch appeal.
Naqvi was charged by US prosecutors in 2019 over the collapse of Abraaj, a once high-flying emerging markets investment firm that managed $14bn at its peak for investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Prosecutors brought 16 counts of alleged fraud and money laundering allegations against Naqvi, claiming that the businessman was the driving force behind a $250mn scheme that inflated the values of Abraaj’s funds and diverted millions of dollars for his personal benefit.
Abraaj imploded in 2018 as investor concern over procedures at its $1bn healthcare fund intensified. Naqvi, who lives in London, has spent the past three years fighting US efforts to extradite him. He denies wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, Mr Justice Jonathan Swift refused an attempt by Naqvi to appeal against an earlier 2021 extradition ruling. Lawyers for the Pakistani national had argued that the 2021 ruling failed to take sufficient account of the US prison conditions to which Naqvi, who suffers from poor health, would probably be subject.
Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Naqvi, told the High Court that conditions in Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey — where he was likely to be housed — would breach Naqvi’s human rights and affect his mental health as there was evidence of “intimidation by gangs”.
Mark Summers KC, representing the US government, disputed that claim, arguing that the jail would be able to treat and care for Naqvi appropriately.
He also said Naqvi may not be held in prison while awaiting trial, pointing to the bail that a US judge recently granted Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX who was extradited to the US from the Bahamas.
“The time has come for Mr Naqvi to be sent to America to face trial on these very serious charges,” Summers told the court. “These charges are exceptionally serious and the fraud is astronomical. This is a serious trial which should not be held up any longer.”
After Wednesday’s ruling, Summers told the court that the US government had a 28-day period to make the necessary arrangements for “a safe and orderly surrender” by Naqvi to the US. Naqvi is currently on bail after lodging £15mn security pending the extradition proceedings.
Last year Dubai’s financial regulator provisionally fined Naqvi $135.6mn for misleading investors about the use of their funds.