Bhandari wins permission to appeal extradition on six grounds in UK high court

LONDON: In a major blow to New Delhi, a UK high court judge has granted Indian defence middleman Sanjay Bhandari permission to appeal his extradition to India on six grounds.
The Indian government has issued two requests for the extradition of Bhandari (62), an Indian national living in London.
The first request, from the Enforcement Directorate, concerns an intended prosecution for an offence of money laundering, contrary to Sec 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The second, dated June 2, 2021,brought by the income tax department, concerns an intended prosecution for offences of tax evasion, contrary to Sec 51 of the Black Money Act (BMA).
On Nov 7, 2022 district judge Michael Snow at Westminster magistrates’ court sent Bhandari’s case to the then home secretary, Suella Braverman, who ordered his extradition on Jan 12, 2023.
On Thursday, Justice Pushpinder Singh Saini gave permission to Bhandari to appeal against his extradition on the grounds that it was arguable both offences he is accused of are not extradition offences, there is no prima facie case made out for each offence, and he may not get bail in India. Bhandari had — on Oct 24, 2023 —already received permission to appeal extradition on the grounds of degrading prison conditions in India, the reverse burden of proof in the BMA, and the fact his trial could face long delays. The full appeal will be heard later this year.
Bhandari, who provides consultancy services through his company, Offset India Solutions, to manufacturers bidding for defence contracts with India’s govt, appeared in person at court dressed in black and left beaming with joy.
Saini only refused one ground sought, that of Braverman’s decision to extradite him.
Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Bhandari, had argued that she should have discharged him as there was a risk he would be prosecuted for other offences in India, pointing out numerous references in the requests to Delhi police investigating an alleged offence under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, CBI investigating an allegation of conspiracy to cheat and accept illegal gratification by a public servant, and ED investigating further offences of money laundering.
The court heard that “secret and confidential documents relating to the ministry of defence” were found at Bhandari’s premises in India.
James Stansfeld, also representing Bhandari, told the court that Snowhad “misunderstood the Black Money Act offence in India” and erred in concluding it was a fraud act offence, and erred that the equivalent tax in UK is income tax. “What is being taxed is almost wholly assets,” he said. “There is no equivalent tax in this jurisdiction and no corresponding offence here.” He said alleged admissions made by Bhandari during an income tax raid of his property in India in April 2016 were not admissible as he was not subject to caution and not legally represented, and the interviews were “oppressive”.
Justice Saini said: “He is accused of possession of undeclared assets outside India and that he failed to declare these under the BMA. I am not aware of any equivalent offences in this jurisdiction. I agree he could spend years in custody with no prospect of release.”

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