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Abraaj Capital founder loses extradition appeal to the US

Naqvi Abraaj Reuters/Ruben Sprich
US prosecutors allege Arif Naqvi, founder of Abraaj, defrauded investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Arif Naqvi faces charges of fraud and money laundering 
  • UK judge has blocked him from challenging 2021 extradition ruling
  • Abraaj collapsed in 2018 following an investigation

Arif Naqvi, the founder of what was once the largest private equity firm in the Middle East, has lost a bid to challenge his extradition from London to the US to face fraud charges. 

US prosecutors allege that the Pakistan-born businessman defrauded investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, by concealing a liquidity crisis at the company and funnelling off hundreds of millions of dollars for him and his family. 

Abraaj, which has its headquarters in Dubai, collapsed in 2018 following investigations into alleged mismanagement of investors’ funds. Creditors were left owed more than $1 billion, according to reports at the time. 

Naqvi was arrested in the UK in 2020, where he is out on bail. He faces up to 30 years in prison if he is extradited to the US and convicted. He has previously denied the allegations.

His lawyers had requested a review of a UK court decision in 2021 that he be sent to the US to face criminal charges, based on new evidence of deteriorating prison conditions and Naqvi’s fragile mental state, according to global media reports. 

However, in the UK Administrative Court on Wednesday, Judge Jonathan Swift refused Naqvi permission to bring a judicial review against the 2021 decision. 

In his oral ruling, Judge Swift stated that there had been no “material change” in US prison conditions since the 2021 ruling. 

Abraaj was the largest private equity firm in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) by assets, until investors raised concerns in 2018 about their investments in a $1 billion healthcare fund. 

The Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund had raised around $100 million over three years from mainly US investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the allegations from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The Abraaj scandal sent shockwaves through the Mena business community in the years after the firm’s collapse.

It prompted authorities – including the Dubai Financial Services Authority, regulator of UAE free zone Dubai International Financial Services – to look at tightening financial controls and review other pieces of business regulation. 

Naqvi’s extradition may not occur anytime soon as there are further judicial appeal routes open to him.