Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

US to press for Arif Naqvi’s extradition over Abraaj collapse

Four-day hearing is due to start on Monday as ex-CEO faces fraud and money laundering claims

Arif Naqvi, founder and former chief executive of Abraaj, is accused of fraud and money laundering. Bloomberg
Arif Naqvi, founder and former chief executive of Abraaj, is accused of fraud and money laundering. Bloomberg

Former Abraaj Group founder and chief executive Arif Naqvi faces extradition proceedings in London on Monday as he battles to avoid a trial in the United States for fraud and money laundering following the collapse of the private equity company.

Mr Naqvi, 59, has been living under curfew at a luxury gated London apartment block for more than a year after his arrest at London’s Heathrow Airport when he returned to the UK from Pakistan in April 2019.

He has been accused in US court documents of misappropriating more than $400 million (Dh1.46 billion) from Abraaj funds to hide losses in what he touted as the Middle East’s largest private equity company. Mr Naqvi has denied any wrong-doing and is fighting extradition.

US prosecutors say that Mr Naqvi was at the heart of a conspiracy to take money from funds and falsify financial records to hide the parlous position of his group of businesses.

Abraaj, which was founded in 2002 and claimed to manage almost $14bn of assets at its peak, was one of the world’s most active emerging market investors with interests across Africa, Asia, Latin America, Turkey and the Middle East.

The firm's demise came after investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commissioned an audit to investigate the alleged mismanagement of money within its healthcare fund. It emerged that the firm’s main revenues had not covered its operating costs for years.

In a 2019 indictment signed by the now-ousted US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, the former Dubai-based businessman and five other men were accused of a raft of charges including fraud, money laundering and theft.

Another executive, Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, a former managing partner, was arrested while on a trip to the US with his wife and son. He pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing in September. Other defendants charged in New York are outside of US custody.

Dubai’s financial regulator has also fined Abraaj $315m for deceiving investors and misappropriating their funds.

Mr Naqvi has asked to appear by remote video-link for the scheduled four-day hearing that is due to start on Monday, according to the UK prosecution service. His lawyers are due to appear in person as the UK courts increase their operations after Covid-19-related postponements.

Mr Naqvi spent more than a month inside a British prison until he was bailed in return for a bond of £15m (Dh68m), believed to be a record sum in the UK courts. He was told he had to remain within the perimeter of his apartment block 24-hours a day and was given an electronic tag to ensure he did not flee.

The terms of his bail have been steadily eased and he has been allowed to exercise for two hours every day in nearby Hyde Park and attend prayers at London Central Mosque on Fridays.

Updated: June 23, 2020 12:44 PM

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