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Mon 20 Aug 2018 06:49 PM

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International arrest order against Abraaj founder 'not possible'

Dr Habib Al Mulla, who is representing Arif Naqvi in a $217m bounced cheque case, disputes claims his client could be subject to international arrest warrant

International arrest order against Abraaj founder 'not possible'
Arif Naqvi, the founder of troubled Dubai-based buyout firm Abraaj.

An international arrest order against Arif Naqvi, the founder of troubled Dubai-based buyout firm Abraaj, in relation to a $217 million (AED798m) bounced cheque case with founding shareholder Hamid Jafar, is “not possible”, according to his lawyer.

Speaking to Arabian Business, the chairman of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla said most European countries do not consider bounced cheque cases as criminal offences.

He was countering remarks made last week by Zafer Oghli, a partner at law firm Tamimi & Co, which represents Jafar, claimed there is a “high possibility” it will request the public prosecutor to issue an international arrest order for Naqvi, who is a Dubai resident but is currently residing in the UK.

“It has to be noted that because issuing a bounced cheque is not a criminal offence in most jurisdictions, other countries do not take seriously an arrest warrant that is issued in the case of a bounced cheque,” said Al Mulla.

“Certainly, most European countries do not accept extradition based on conviction issued in a case of bounced cheque as they consider and treat these cases as a civil matter that does not warrant a criminal conviction,” he added.

An arrest warrant was issued against Naqvi in Dubai in June over another $300 million bounced cheque made by Abraaj to Jafar in relation to a previous loan.

Oghli’s comment came less than two weeks after both parties reached an out of court agreement for the first bounced cheque case.

A judgment for the second case is expected to be issued on August 26.

Oghli told The National newspaper last week: “If the judgment is imprisonment, then it’s not just a piece of paper, there’s a procedure to be followed; if [Naqvi] does not show up or appeal, then we will ask for an arrest order not only in the UAE but internationally. No one is far from the hand of justice.”

However, Al Mulla said that a global arrest order would have to be made through the Interpol.

“As with any criminal case, once a person has been convicted, there would be an arrest order issued against him. If the person is not to be found in the jurisdiction, then the prosecution will make a request to the Interpol which is called a red flag,” he said.

Abraaj, once the biggest private equity firm in MENA with $14 billion in assets under management, began a court-supervised restructuring in the Cayman Islands in June after it was accused of misusing investor capital, including that of Bill and Melinda Gates, in a $1 billion healthcare fund. Abraaj continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Investors on Friday announced the appointment of global consulting firm AlixPartners to oversee its separation from Abraaj Group. AlixPartners has been tasked with ensuring the long term success of the fund in delivering accessible, affordable and quality healthcare in developing countries.

In August, Cerberus Capital Management pulled out of the bidding process for Abraaj Group’s asset-management platform after the $25 million offer was rejected by investors of the private equity firm. The offer was the lowest among several bidders.

This month, Naqvi resigned from the board of Sharjah’s low-cost carrier Air Arabia, in which Abraaj is believed to own a 17 percent stake.

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