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Abraaj founder loses challenge to U.S. extradition on fraud charges

Abraaj Capital founder and Group CEO Naqvi attends a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - The founder of collapsed private equity company Abraaj Group on Wednesday lost a bid to challenge his extradition from London to the United States to face fraud charges.

U.S. prosecutors allege Pakistani businessman Arif Naqvi is the architect of a plot to defraud investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Naqvi has previously denied the allegations through a public relations firm.

Judge Jonathan Swift on Wednesday refused Naqvi permission to bring a judicial review against the 2021 approval of his extradition to the United States.

Naqvi’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told London’s High Court on Tuesday that Naqvi was likely to be held in a New Jersey prison where he may have to share a dormitory with violent criminals.

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Naqvi also suffers from severe depression and there is a “real risk” of suicide if he is extradited, Fitzgerald argued.

However, lawyers representing the U.S. government said Naqvi has been given assurances that prosecutors will not oppose bail before he stands trial.

The U.S. government’s lawyer Mark Summers said in court filings that the judge in Naqvi’s case is U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who granted bail to FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, which is a “strong indication” Naqvi will be granted bail.

Swift ruled on Wednesday that there had been no “material change” in prison conditions since the 2021 ruling approving Naqvi’s extradition.

The judge also said that Naqvi’s suicide risk could be adequately managed if he was held in prison.

Naqvi’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Naqvi was the founder of Dubai-based Abraaj, which was the largest buyout fund in the Middle East and North Africa until it collapsed in 2018 after investors raised concerns about the management of its $1 billion healthcare fund.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleges Naqvi and his firm raised money for the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund, collecting more than $100 million over three years from U.S.-based charitable organisations and other U.S. investors.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; editing by Jason Neely)