Friday Jun 26 2020

Abraaj Group returned money with interest to Bill Gates Foundation, others: UK court told

Arif Naqvi is among several people charged by US prosecutors with being part of an alleged international scheme to defraud investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Photo: File

LONDON: A UK court on Thursday was told by a witness that Pakistani business tycoon Arif Naqvi’s Abraaj Group had returned all money to Bill Gates Foundation and other American investors with interest.

At the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where Arif Naqvi’s US extradition hearing is currently being held, a witness told the judge that the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Abraaj Group had ensured that all transactions in question by US investors in relation to the Healthcare Fund were paid back to those investors in full with interest by December 31 in 2017.

This inquiry was initiated by the Bill Gates Foundation, following which, Naqvi had approached the court to refuse his extradition to the US where the former Abraaj Group founder and chief executive faces fraud and money laundering charges.

Arif Naqvi had maintained that there was no wrongdoing.

Passing statements of fact provided by cross-examinations of by both Naqvi’s barrister, Hugo Keith QC and the US government’s barrister, Mark Summers QC, witnesses revealed two more very important pieces of information.

The court heard that Abraaj Private Equity Fund VI (APEF VI), the flagship fund which had raised a record $3 billion before Abraaj’s collapse, was never actually drawn down and no investor's capital was ever invested or lost from that fund.

Also read: Abraaj Group’s Arif Naqvi denied bail by UK court

Separately, the court also heard that the US government’s entity named Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which was also mentioned in the indictment, was not an investor but a debt provider which had been repaid in full, contrary to the indictment alleging otherwise.

Keith QC told the Chief Magistrate that Naqvi continues to deny the allegations in the indictment that he personally misappropriated money for his benefit and wants to submit evidence to show his innocence but will respect the rules of the Court and only speak to the bars against extradition.

He also maintained that a trial should take place, if any, in the UK, and that US prisons violate Article 3 human rights and that staff of these prisons are not allowed to talk about the terrible conditions. Witnesses were produced on both arguments.

During the trial that will last till the middle of next week, the lawyers for the US government did not produce any evidence to show that their prisons did not violate human rights but revealed to the court that if Naqvi was extradited to the US, they would ask the US judge to grant him bail.

In itself an unprecedented offer, seemingly in response to Naqvi’s lawyers advance submissions on appalling federal prison conditions in New York where he would be held, potentially for years before a trial in New York could even take place.

Naqvi’s lawyers have rejected the offer telling the court that they did not believe the offer had substance, given that the decision in the US could only be taken by a judge.

A witness was produced before the court who said that there was a real risk that a judge would not agree with any offer and detain him to either the Metropolitan Correctional Centre (MCC) or Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC).

Arif Naqvi is among several people charged by the US prosecutors with being part of an alleged international scheme to defraud investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Naqvi and others are facing 16 counts including fraud, money laundering and racketeering, known as RICO, created to target organised crime such as the mafia. The indictment comes to 291 years if convicted in the USA, where Naqvi doesn’t believe he will get a fair trial.