A UK judge hearing the closing arguments in the extradition case of Pakistani national Jabir Moti, referred to as a "top lieutenant" in underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's organised crime syndicate, on Wednesday sought clarity from the US authorities about the terror aspect of the case.
Moti is fighting his extradition to the US on drug trafficking and money laundering offences amounting to around USD 1.4 million. The US extradition request also states that Motiwala reported directly to Dawood, who is a designated terrorist and wanted for the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai.
"There is an added element to this case in that there is a clear reference to this man's (Moti) position, who is said to be a lieutenant of the man (Ibrahim) who is involved in the most horrendous crimes, including bombings in India," said Judge John Zani at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.
"There must therefore be clarity on what will happen to this man (Moti) in the US… either this case has a terror element or not,” the judge said, directing that an additional question be sent to the US authorities to clarify the likelihood of an enhanced terrorism charge applied by the prosecutors if Moti is extradited to the US.
The judge's intervention followed Moti’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald, laying out as one of his central defence arguments that the US prosecutors had failed to provide an undertaking that his client will not be subjected to an additional terrorism charge over and above the drug trafficking allegation.
The terror charge would put Moti at risk of being sentenced to life imprisonment without parole under US law, which his lawyer argued would be in breach of his human rights and therefore should block his extradition.
"There is an obfuscation of the true position and they are not prepared to give an undertaking because they probably intend to seek an enhancement (terror charge)," said Fitzgerald.
During the closing submissions, Moti's team argued against extradition on additional human rights grounds because he suffers from longstanding depression and made three suicide attempts. This would make his confinement in a New York jail with "third world conditions" particularly inhumane.
They also accused the US authorities of failure to submit a "sufficiently particularised allegation of conspiracy to import drugs to the US" as well as being guilty of abuse of process for gathering evidence in Pakistan in breach of international law.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the US government, have countered these claims to highlight the assurances given by the US authorities.
Moti, also known as Motiwala or Siddiq, appeared in the dock for the hearing. Besides money laundering, he faces extradition to the US on charges of extortion and conspiracy to import unlawful substances such as heroine after his arrest by Scotland Yard’s Extradition Unit last year.
While the submissions in the case closed this week, the judge will make a ruling after the additional clarity is received from the US on the terrorism aspect of the case.
Judge Zani also indicated that he would be handing down his judgment partly open to the public and partly closed, due to some sensitive evidence presented in-camera to the court during the course of the trial.
At previous hearings in the case, the UK court has heard that Dawood is a fugitive from Indian justice and currently in Pakistan.
"The head of D-Company is Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian Muslim currently in exile in Pakistan. Dawood and his brother and top lieutenant, Anis Ibrahim, have been fugitives from India since 1993, when D-Company was implicated in coordinated bombings in Mumbai that killed more than 200 people," note excerpts of a US Attorney's affidavit for extradition read out in court previously.
"The present investigation has revealed that Jabir Motiwala is a top lieutenant in D Company who reports directly to Dawood," it adds.