Sanjeev Chawla is the key accused in the 2000 match-fixing case, which involved the late South African captain Hansie Cronje will be extradited to India after failing his plea.
LONDON: Alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla is set to be extradited to India to face charges of match-fixing after he lost a last-ditch appeal attempt in the UK High Court on Thursday. Chawla, wanted in India to face charges of cricket match-fixing dating back to 2000, has been fighting against his extradition on human rights grounds and had sought permission to appeal against an extradition order signed off by the UK government last year.
In details of the case that emerged in court, Chawla was introduced to Hansie Cronje, the late South African cricket team captain, in January-February 2000. It was suggested to Cronje, by Chawla and another person, that he could make significant amounts of money if he agreed to lose cricket matches. Money was paid to Cronje at the time of the pending South African tour to India. The tour took place in February-March 2000, with Chawla, Cronje and others conspiring to fix cricket matches in exchange for payment. Chawla reportedly played a central role, including direct contact with Cronje.
At the end of a half-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Justice David Bean and Justice Clive Lewis concluded that they were “satisfied that permission to appeal should be refused.”
Under the India-UK Extradition Treaty, the UK Home Office is now expected to formally certify the court order for Chawla to be extradited to India within 28 days.
Under exceptional circumstances, there is a possibility of moving the UK Supreme Court on a point of law but barrister Mark Summers, representing the Indian government in the case, said that as a matter of law that avenue is not possible after permission has been denied by the High Court.
Chawla’s lawyers had tried to establish that their client has a statutory right to appeal against the District Judge’s order sent to the UK Home Secretary for a sign off. That submission was challenged by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on behalf of the Indian authorities on the grounds that it is a “disguised attempt” at reopening the entire case.
The two-member High Court panel decided to consider the matter simultaneously as a criminal procedure application on whether to grant permission to reopen the previous appeal. “Nobody wants this case to go off to another day after all the delay,” said Lord Justice Bean.
At that stage Chawla’s lawyers referred to a series of fresh evidence documents and images to highlight that their client faced a serious risk of injustice and violence in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where he is to be held pre-trial. They also alleged the potential of violence in police custody, given the coercive treatment of some of Chawla’s co-accused in India.
After brief deliberation, the judges ruled in favour of the Indian authorities, saying that the threshold for the case to be reopened for appeal had not been met and that the assurances provided by the Indian government on prison conditions stand.
Former UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had signed off on a District Judge’s order in favour of extradition in February last year, giving the 50-year-old time to seek an appeal against the decision.
Chawla, a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hansie Cronje in 2000, was present at the Royal Courts of Justice in London as Lord Justice David Bean and Justice Clive Lewis heard the application.
Following an initial trial, Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London had concluded in October 2017 that while Chawla had a prima facie case to answer, his human rights could not be guaranteed in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where he was to be held.
This ruling was challenged in the UK High Court by the CPS, on behalf of the Indian authorities.
In a judgment handed down in the Royal Courts of Justice in London in November 2018, Lord Justice Leggatt and Justice Dingemans upheld the Indian government’s appeal and directed the District Judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to review the order against Chawla and proceed with an extradition order.
The High Court judges accepted the assurances provided by the Indian government that the accused will be accommodated in a cell to be occupied exclusively by him, with proper “safety and security” and complying with the “personal space and hygiene requirements” the court expects.
India had also made further guarantees on medical facilities and protection from intra-prisoner violence in the jail.
In January last year, the magistrates’ court issued a fresh order in favour of Chawla’s extradition, which was sent to the UK home secretary, who must formally sign off on the order under the India-UK Extradition Treaty.
According to court documents in the case, Chawla is described as a Delhi-born businessman who moved to the UK on a business visa in 1996, where he has been based while making trips back and forth to India.
After his Indian passport was revoked in 2000, he obtained a UK passport in 2005 and is now a British citizen.
By: PTI | London