Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi gets record US$20 million bail in London

Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi’s every movement will be monitored closely by the authorities. (Reuters pic)

LONDON: Arif Naqvi, the founder of buyout fund Abraaj Group, can be released on conditional bail of 15 million pounds (US$20 million) after a London judge dismissed prosecutors’ bid to keep him in custody while he fights extradition to the US

Naqvi who’s caught up in an American fraud probe was granted bail by Judge Michael Supperstone on Friday. The bond amount is “the largest security ever ordered in the UK,” according to Naqvi’s filings for Friday’s hearing.

During his bail, the 58-year-old must surrender his travel documents, wear an electronic tag and stay in his London home. Naqvi’s bail conditions “effectively amount to house arrest,” the judge said.

Prosecutors said they feared he may flee to Pakistan rather than face the American charges. An electronic monitoring tag “is not a panacea, as anyone involved in Mr. Assange’s case will tell you,” Rachel Kapila, the US government’s lawyer, said at the hearing. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was reportedly wearing an electronic tag when he entered Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012.

“I am not persuaded” that “there’s a real risk” that Naqvi will fail to surrender to authorities, “if appropriate conditions are imposed” on his bail, the judge said Friday.

Naqvi is one of several Abraaj officials caught up in a probe of what had been the Middle East’s biggest private-equity fund. He is charged with inflating the value of the Dubai-based firm’s holdings and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. He denies the accusations and says the idea he took money out for his own personal benefit is “ludicrous.”

Imran Khan
Naqvi included a phone number for Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, on a list given to police of “telephone numbers to contact if necessary” when he was arrested at London’s Heathrow airport in April, the US government said in its filings for Friday’s hearing.

Naqvi has been friends with Khan for over 20 years, his lawyer Hugo Keith said in court Friday, and that’s no reason to deny him bail.

“Is the Prime Minister of Pakistan going to send a jet for him?” Keith said. “He’s not going to enable flight.” Prosecutors had last week said the phone number was that of Pakistan’s president, rather than its prime minister.

Naqvi’s sureties include Javed Ahmed, the former chief executive officer of Tate & Lyle Plc, who’s “willing to stand 300,000 pounds” for Naqvi, Keith said at the hearing.