Thursday, February 06, 2020

UK court clears Jabir Motiwala’s extradition to the US over drug trade

Previously, District Judge referred the extradition case to the Secretary of the State

Jabir Motiwala. File photo

LONDON: District Judge John Zani at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court has rejected extradition challenges of Karachi businessman Jabir Siddiq Motiwala, following a request made by the United States authorities. Motiwala faces charges related to extortion, blackmailing, and import of drugs.

On Thursday, the District Judge referred the extradition case to the Secretary of the State, declaring that Jabir Motiwala’s extradition to the United States of America to face criminal prosecution complies with his Convention Rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The judge declared: “I also find that there are no bars to this extradition as would intervene to prevent extradition in accordance with the provisions of s.87 (3) of the 2003 Act. I am sending this case to the Secretary of the State for a decision as to whether Jabir Motiwala is to be extradited.”

District Judge John Zani said that Motiwala has right to seek permission to Appeal to the High Court against the Magistrate’s decision. He announced that Motiwala can file an appeal only after Secretary of the State has made her decision. If a decision is made by the Secretary of State to grant this extradition request, his legal team will be pursuing an appeal to the High Court.

Jabir Motiwala has been resisting attempts by the US government since arrest in London in August 2018 during a raid at Hilton Hotel on Edgware Road. American authorities have accused Motiwala of importing class A drugs, extortion and money laundering in the United States. Jabir Motiwala denies all charges against him and said he has never done anything wrong.

During the last hearing around three months ago, Judge Zani had asked the United States authorities to come clean on whether an “enhanced terror charge” or “terrorism enhancement” will be added on Karachi businessman Jabir Motiwala if he were to be extradited to the US.

Motiwala has not been accused of terrorism charges, but the indictment issued by the US details Motiwala being a “top lieutenant” of Dawood Ibrahim’s so-called network. Motiwala has denied being a member of any network and so far the court has not seen any evidence linking him with D-company or any evidence showing involvement of Motiwala with D-company.

The US authorities – and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – have shown no proof to the court linking Dawood Ibrahim or his alleged network with Motiwala.

Defence Counsel Edward Fitzgerald QC had told the Judge that Motiwala should not be extradited to the US because his human rights under Article 3 will be breached. He had told the court that prison conditions in the US are inhumane and degrading, rendering Motiwala’s life in danger. He made a reference to the medical reports that Motiwala had a history of mental depression and on three occasions he tried to commit suicide.

Mr Fitzgerald QC told the court that the US government agents were in breach of international law when they conducted their operations in Pakistan and obtained evidence involving Motiwala by luring him into a plot related to the import of Class A drugs to the US soil. Mr Fitzgerald QC had told the court that he was not seeking an entrapment defence however the evidence was gathered without the approval of sovereign Pakistani government, therefore international law was breached.

Two American expert witnesses told the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in previous hearings that extraditing Motiwala will put his life at risk in unsafe jails, his mental health will further deteriorate therefore placing him in a high risk of suicide. They provided reports to the court about deplorable jail conditions following the death of Jeffrey Epstein on the 10th August 2019. Epstein was housed in the Special Housing Unit where he was subject to solitary confinement prior to his death. The experts had told the court that the Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) and the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) New York are over populated prisons, mismanaged, under staffed, troubled with racism, with these issues being a recurring theme for many years without any action being taken.

Jabir Motiwala was secretly recorded by three Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Pakistani origin secret agents over several years while he allegedly dealt in import of class A drugs, extortion and money-laundering to the United States, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told at the start of Motiwala’s extradition trial.

Barrister John Hardy, appearing on behalf of the US government, had told district judge John Zani how Motiwala travelled from Karachi to the US to meet the three US-Pakistani FBI agents to set up deals of drugs and money-laundering.

The three FBI agents – described as CS1, CS2 and CS3 to protect their identity – then travelled to Karachi where they held extensive meetings with Motiwala to set up deals for the smuggling of heroin into the US. All these meetings were secretly recorded.

The prosecution claimed that during his interaction with the FBI agents, the businessman disclosed activities of the D-company in India, UAE and Pakistan but the court has not been shown any evidence in support of the prosecution’s claim.

The prosecution alleged that Motiwala was not a mule as it was an FBI agent who carried the drugs but Motiwala was “facilitator” of 4 kg of heroin which reached US. Multiple calls and evidence related to smuggling of drugs was recorded and Motiwala threatened the secret FBI agent (CS1) later on when payment was not made, according to the prosecution. The secret FBI agent made a partial payment of around $20,000 to Motiwala in Karachi and evidence of payment was recorded, the court heard.

Two other agents, CS2 and CS3, were involved in relation to the evidence of money laundering, blackmail and extortion, alleged the prosecution.

The FBI alleged that Motiwala went to Atlantic City for two days in 2011 to meet undercover FBI agents for an alleged narcotics and money-laundering deal but the defence has said that he got trapped into it and unlawful methods were used to entrap him.

Motiwala has denied the allegations and his lawyer has previously told the court that his grandfather and father were pivotal in setting up Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) and belonged to a respectable business family with the history of genuine business credentials.

Motiwala was represented by Counsel, Edward Fitzgerald QC and Daniel Sternberg and lawyers Deepak Vij and Amirah Ajaz of ABV Solicitors. The legal team said Jabir Motiwala will appeal at the London High Court against his extradition.