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November 26, 2020

ECHR halts extradition of ‘drugs lord’ with India link

National

November 26, 2020

Shah Rukh Khan can be seen with Asif Hafeez – known as the ‘Sultan of Drugs’.

LONDON: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has effectively halted the extradition of Pakistani national Muhammad Asif Hafeez to the US on charges of drugs import and production.

Sources said Asif Hafeez – known as the ‘Sultan of Drugs’ - will be presenting his full case to the European Court next month, pleading why the European Court should permanently halt his extradition to the US where he faces a life sentence without parole.

The ECHR’s decision to halt the extradition, while the case is ongoing, will benefit two other Pakistanis — Jabir Motiwala and Arif Naqvi who are fighting the US extradition bid and have argued before the courts almost similar grounds as those of Asif Hafeez’s lawyers. Asif Hafeez was arrested from his Regent’s Park home in August 2017.

Edward Fitzgerald QC said that he obtained a Rule 39 indication from the European Court in the case of Asif Hafeez on the basis that he faced a sentence of life without parole in the US, and that there was a real risk that conditions in the federal detention centres were inhuman, particularly in the light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

On January 11, 2019, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ordered the UK Home Secretary to extradite Pakistani national to America, but Hafeez appealed at the London High Court against the district judge’s decision. On January 31, 2020, the London High Court dismissed his appeal.

Asif Hafeez’s lawyers applied to ECHR in Strasbourg, and obtained a rule 39 indication effectively staying the extradition. Asif Hafeez, 63, was arrested in London in August, 2017 by the National Crime Agency (NCA) on the request of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and lodged in the high security Belmarsh.

Asif Hafeez with UK's Prince William.

Hafeez’s eldest son Muhammad Tauseef Asif assembled a team of lawyers from Pakistan, Mozambique, India and America to assist the London legal team in defence of his father during extradition hearings in London courts.

Hafeez, originally from Lahore, is alleged to be the head of an organisation spanning Europe, Africa, Asia and North America, that produced and smuggled drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, or crystal meth, and ephedrine smuggled into Kenya from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan for onwards transportation.

The US alleges that Hafeez conspired with Akasha Organisation, led by brothers Baktash Akasha Abdalla and Ibrahim Akasha Abdalla, for heroin production and smuggling, setting up a special laboratory in Mozambique. The prosecutors allege that Indian national Goswami and his wife Mamta Kulkarni, a well-known Bollywood actress, were also part of Hafeez’s gang and ran a factory in India to manufacture ephedrine, the deadly drug’s active ingredient. Hafeez is reported to have had links with Bollywood actors and members of the royal family in Britain.