LONDON: (Anmol News) London High Court’s Justice Michael Alan Supperstone has confirmed the £15 million cash security deposit, with three added sureties of UK businessmen of good standing, for philanthropist Arif Naqvi’s bail application, as he wholly rejected the appeal against bail filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The judge also fully dismissed that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to send or arrange a private jet for his friend Naqvi to flee Britain to avoid facing fraud charges in America if extradited.
Sitting at Court Room 1 of the Royal Court of Justice here, Justice Supperstone ruled that Arif Naqvi deserved to be on bail and the prosecutor, acting on behalf of the US government, had not provided enough evidence that Naqvi will violate terms of the bail.
The bail was imposed earlier on May 1 by the Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court while granting bail of £15 million cash bond to Arif Naqvi. The prosecutor also conceded that Arif Naqvi is a man of good character.
On Thursday, the DOJ’s prosecutor appealed against the bail decision and approached the London High Court, requesting that bail should be canceled and Naqvi should stay in the Wandsworth prison – where has been since his arrest around three weeks ago at Heathrow airport.
While rejecting the appeal by the US government, Justice Supperstone maintained all the bail conditions imposed by the Westminster Magistrate’s Court and added three securities of around half a million pounds, which will be subject to risk by three friends of Naqvi at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court.
The judge ruled that Arif Naqvi was aware about the proceedings around the Abraaj and expected that some action will materialise in the US against him but made no attempt to flee or hide. Justice Supperstone said that he was not persuaded by the evidence of the US government that Naqvi will not surrender or that he will flee to Pakistan. However, the judge said that appropriate bail conditions have been imposed which means that Naqvi will not seek access to any kind of travel documents; will surrender all his travel documents to the police; stay under 24-hours curfew at his home and remain tagged like two other co-accused.
At the hearing, the prosecutor repeated the same allegations that were leveled first at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court – that Naqvi had connections with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and other senior officials and personalities in Pakistan and therefore, could flee to Pakistan using a private jet. The judge dismissed concerns of the prosecutor and stressed that while Naqvi – who carries Pakistani passport – had strong ties to Pakistan, he also has equally strong ties to Britain where his family resides permanently for a long time, and has been a significant contributor to the community. The judge dismissed the concern that Naqvi could access a private jet, stating that there was no evidence to back up the claim.
Two of Naqvi’s associates – senior Abraaj executives Mustafa Abdel-Wadood in Manhattan and Sev Vettivetpillai in London – are already out on bail under strict curfew regimes.
Hugo Keith QC told the court that throughout since the Abraaj scandal broke out, Naqvi has been cooperating extensively with all parties focused on maximising creditor recoveries of the Abraaj Group, which was at its peak the largest private equity firm in emerging markets with assets under management of US$14 billion. The firm was also known for its pioneering style of investing and helping grow companies, which resulted in billions of dollars in value that its investors made in profit.
A number of these investments were ground breaking in emerging markets and represent some of the biggest companies that have contributed to the emerging market boom.
Naqvi’s bail last week was blocked first by the same Westminster Magistrate’s Court judge after the prosecutor said Naqvi may flee to Pakistan rather than face charges because Naqvi wrote down the number of Pakistan’s premier Imran Khan at the time of his arrest. On May 1, the Chief Magistrate reversed her decision as she considered more closely the merits of Keith QC’s arguments that proved the prosecutions allegations were wrong.
Hugo Keith QC told the High Court judge that various agreements existed between Pakistan and the UK and a friendly government like Pakistan would help UK if someone absconds and by no means help an individual at the expense of its diplomatic ties.
The London High Court was told that the prosecution was relying on unverified and inflated information such as that Naqvi had access to funds of hundreds of millions of pounds that he could utilise to leave Britain or escape the course of justice. The defence lawyer told the judge and provided evidence to the fact that Naqvi himself did not in fact have liquid cash available but agreed that he was a “wealthy man”.
The defence lawyer told the judge that the fact that £15 million bail was offered by supporters of Naqvi showed that Naqvi’s friends and acquaintances have high regard for him and his integrity and people believed in him, therefore willing to stand to lose enormous sums of money if he was to flee. Mr Keith also explained that given he is a man of good character and the highest probity through evidenced facts of his contributions globally.
Naqvi, along with other executives of Abraaj Group, is charged with inflating the value of the Dubai-based firm’s holdings, but he has strongly denied all allegations and maintains his innocence.
The lawyer explained again that that the US government was not being truthful in alleging that Naqvi took money out for his personal benefit at the expense of the group as in each hearing their numbers changed given the rebuttals by Naqvi’s lawyers.
He told the court that any monies which Naqvi had taken out were legally entitled to him through his contractual arrangements with the company, and specifically also pointed out that no cash was moved from funds to Naqvi’s direct personal benefit.
He told the judge that towards the end of 2017 and early 2018, all funds of the Gates Foundation along with all those of other investors in the Healthcare fund were returned in full, and with interest – meaning that the Gates foundation did not suffer any economic loss at all. Hugo Keith pointed out that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US had been returned monies, whereas the DOJ Indictment had omitted to include this key point, showing a contradiction.
The lawyer told Justice Suppertsone about a report by Deloitte in 2018 in which the accountancy firm confirmed that no criminality or misappropriation of funds took place at any stage.