Tuesday Dec 15 2020

Arif Naqvi case: Expert witness tells court ex-Abraaj CEO will not receive fair trial in US

Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi. photo: file

  • The Abraaj Group founder faces fraud and money laundering charges. He was arrested in London a year ago
  • Arif Naqvi has maintained there was no wrongdoing.
  • Expert witness Michael Baldassare tells court situation at Essex County Correctional Facility is “chaos”

LONDON: A key expert witness has told the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi’s extradition hearing that the Pakistani business magnate will be denied basic human rights if extradited to the United States because of "inhumane prison conditions", and he will not receive a fair trial.

At the start of the final three days of Naqvi’s extradition hearing before District Judge Emma Arbuthnot, expert witness and lawyer Michael Baldassare told the court that the situation at the Essex County Correctional Facility (ECCF) is “chaos”.

The facility is the jail that was put forward as an alternative by the US after Naqvi’s barrister, Hugo Keith, had raised concern in July this year over the conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility (MCC) in Manhattan and Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC) in Brooklyn.

The US gave two assurances at the previous hearing.

Read more on the Arif Naqvi case here

First, that the prosecutors intended not to oppose bail for Naqvi if he was extradited and second, that if the US judge decided to send Naqvi to prison anyway on the grounds of “flight risk”, then he would not be imprisoned at either of the two prisons.

On Monday, the court heard that reports were only commissioned to find out how bad these prisons are after “catastrophic” events such as Jeffrey Epstein’s death at the MCC and a power breakdown at the MDC which resulted in prisoners experiencing subhuman conditions.

It was said that although a prisoner had died by suicide at the ECCF last year, no investigation has been made public. 

The court heard that the ECCF is in New Jersey which is two bridges and a tunnel away - at least an hour-long drive both ways from the SDNY courthouse.

Expert witness Baldassare told the court that Naqvi will be unable to get bail in the US because the system is weighed against him as he is not a US  citizen

Baldassare said: “Nobody wants to go to Essex County. People avoid it as much as they can.”

Read more about the previous hearings in the Arif Naqvi case

The expert witness told the court that during the trial, Naqvi would be woken up at 4am, shackled at 5am and put onto a transport vehicle to New York for an hour. 

He would then spend the day either in court or custody and then sent back to New Jersey after the proceedings ended for the day, the lawyer said. 

This would be repeated during the trial which is estimated to last nearly three months. 

Mark Summers QC, who is representing the US, argued the timing is inaccurate.

Baldassare noted it would be very difficult for Naqvi to consult with his lawyers during the trial and that it is in itself a breach of his right to a fair trial.

Asked by Hugo Keith if Naqvi would receive a fair trial, Baldesare said: “No.”

Who is Arif Naqvi?

Originally from Karachi, businessman Naqvi has argued before the extradition judge at the Westminster Magistrates’ that the USA should not be allowed to extradite him for trial in relation to the collapse of the Abraaj Group.

Naqvi was arrested in London in April 2019 on the request of US. He faces allegations of money-laundering, racketeering and fraud. The Pakistani national faces close to 300 years in jail on 16 counts if extradited to the US.