British Secretary of State for the Home Department Suella Braverman speaks during Britain's Conservative Partys annual conference, in Birmingham (Photo: Reuters)
British Home Secretary Suella Braverman has ordered the extradition of Sanjay Bhandari, an accused middleman and consultant in arms deals, to India to face charges of tax evasion and money laundering.
According to Home Office sources, the extradition was ordered last week and Bhandari now has 14 days until the end of this month to appeal against the order in the administrative division of the High Court in London.
The 60-year-old faced two extradition requests from the Indian authorities, the first related to money laundering and the second to tax evasion.
The development comes two months after a UK court in November ruled that Bhandari can be extradited to India to face charges of tax evasion and money laundering and paved the way for the British government to order his extradition.
District Judge Michael Snow, who heard the case at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London last year, had concluded that there are no bars to him being extradited and decided to send the case to the Indian-origin Home Secretary Braverman.
The judge concluded a prima facie case had been established with respect to both extradition requests.
"He failed to declare his overseas income and assets...He benefited from the income and assets that had not been declared. A reasonable jury can properly infer benefit from his undeclared income and purchase of substantial assets overseas, the court said in its ruling.
The Indian government's extradition request for Bhandari had been certified by then UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in June 2020 and he was arrested on an extradition warrant the following month that year.
The London-based businessman has been on bail on security provided to the court as he fought extradition on the cases against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED).
According to the court documents, Bhandari is wanted in India for intended prosecution for an offence of money laundering contrary to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002 and for offences of tax evasion contrary to the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Asset), Imposition of Tax Act 2015 and Income Tax Act 1961.
Bhandari, who was resident in India for tax purposes at the time in 2015, is accused of concealing overseas assets, using backdated documents, benefiting from the assets not declared to the Indian tax authorities and then falsely informing the authorities that he did not possess any overseas assets. He, however, denies the allegations.
The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), on behalf of the Indian authorities, argued that Bhandari's conduct amounts to "fraud by false representation" in the British jurisdiction.
Bhandari's defence team had sought to argue against the prima facie case and also on human rights grounds, claiming a "real risk" that he would be subjected to torture by the police and of a breach of his Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) rights because of the conditions in Indian prisons, from non-state agents and from the prison guards.
"Assurances have been given in this case. It is the Government's case that the defendant will be held at ward No. 4 Central Jail No. 3, Tihar Jail Complex in New Delhi, the judgment noted.
"India is a friendly country governed by the rule of law. I have not been made aware of any assurance that has not been honoured, it added.
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First Published: Jan 17 2023 | 5:39 PM IST