Guilty Until Proven Innocent? Extradition, human rights, and the unjust prosecution: Pakistani Gold trader imprisoned in UK’s Belmarsh Prison

Guilty Until Proven Innocent? Extradition, human rights, and the unjust prosecution: Pakistani Gold trader imprisoned in UK’s Belmarsh Prison
Gold Merchant Muhammed Asif Hafeez, known as Sultan, the alleged mastermind of a drug-smuggling empire, landed in UK HMP Belmarsh prison


The extradition of Pakistani national Muhammad Asif Hafeez, also known as the Sultan of Drugs, on charges of the production and importation of drugs had been suspended by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Since then, Hafeez has entered his long legal battle to end his extradition case to the US permanently. If Hafeez would be unfairly extradited to the US on false charges, he would be subjected to life imprisonment without parole and would be in risk of inhumane treatment.

Extradition is an agreement of political relations and international alliances; thus, extradition has been used as an essential tool in combating transnational crime and is the US’s key strategy in pursuing its war against drugs and terror. However, under which the human rights of individuals are ignored by states such as the UK, Hong Kong, China and commonly the United States. 

The 63-year-old has been subjected to imprisonment in HMP Belmarsh, where he shares his living space with some of the most dangerous convicts involved in deadly crimes 

The extradition of wrongly indicted individuals, such as Hafeez, can often result in emotional and physical abuse and diminishing rights. With this, individuals could face unfair trials, differing punishment and torture by foreign legal systems. For this reason, extradition as a means of transporting suspects across borders not only infringes a person's freedom and human rights, but it also demonstrates the gradual erosion of civil liberties.

Imprisoned on US allegations

Asif Hafeez, aged 63, worked as a commercial pilot before joining his family’s 40-year-old gold and silver business in Dubai, further confirming that he was never involved in smuggling and producing drugs. The gold trader was arrested in August of 2017 in his Regents Park property in London, on request from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 

According to his court papers, Hafeez is wanted in the US for offences related to drug trafficking including allegations of his involvement in the Ephedrine case under Avon Lifesciences Ltd in 2016. This case involved the discovery of 20 tones of ephedrine seized in two of the pharmaceutical company laboratories in India. This substance was allegedly taken from the laboratory to drug cartels that would use it to cook Methamphetamine. Ultimately, Hafeez denied all the allegations against him, one of which officially labelled him as the “Sultan of drugs”.

In his appeal to the ECHR, Hafeez’s lawyer presented two considerations, the first being that if extradited to the US he would face life without parole and the second being that the infirm Hafeez would suffer inhumane conditions with increased health risks due to Covid.

The specific case of Hafeez presents us with the flaws that underlie the issue of extradition, where criminal justice cooperation undervalues societal values and denies individuals, like Hafeez their legal rights. For this reason, the 63-year-old has been subjected to imprisonment in HMP Belmarsh, where he shares his living space with some of the most dangerous convicts involved in deadly crimes. When questioned, the prison justified his location by stating that he was in the right location considering the case.

The unjust nature of extradition lies in the fact that, in the UK, there is not a concrete case against Hafeez, thus he has not faced trial on any allegations. However, his years are purely being stripped away from him at the request of the US government. The allegations attached to his name had created the image that he was the master behind a drug empire that ran through Europe, North America, and Africa, with detailed drug trails running from India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into Kenya before embarking on further routes. The charges implied that he was working with the notorious Akash brothers in Africa, who had produced heroin in Mozambique and imported them to the United States and India’s D-Company.

With the high chance of facing life imprisonment in the US, the district judge refused to grant his case bail, claiming that he has a deep circle of contacts around the world with a significantly large culmination of wealth that could easily lead to his removal from Belmarsh prison.

Such actions by the UK government should be condemned and addressed, as Hafeez’s treatment allegedly worsened after taking his extradition case to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Individuals such as Hafeez should not be convicted or pushed into cases that have been built around false charges.

Loss of property and ill-treatment

Hafeez’s court papers officially declared that Hafeez suffers from long-term illness and multiple medical issues, it is his legal right to receive necessary medical care. Alarmingly, considering such information, Hafeez has been denied access to healthcare and essential medicine whilst additionally having his family denied permission to visit for over three years now. Unsurprisingly, this maltreatment led to the deterioration of his health, reporting multiple incidents of fainting. This can partly be because Hafeez is locked in his cell for up to 23 hours with a maximum of 1 hour of fresh air outside his cell.

Unsurprisingly, when addressed, the spokesperson for Belmarsh prison denied such allegations and stated that Hafeez has gotten the necessary medical treatment he has needed with regular check-ups ensuring his health does not deteriorate.

Making matters worse, after his arrest by the National Crime Agency, Hafeez had lost three of his properties over the space of four years, making a total loss of £6 million in assets. The Lahore gold trader owned an apartment in one of central London’s most prime locations, St John’s Wood area, valued at £2.25 million.

On top of this, Hafeez and his family-owned two farmhouses in Windsor, where the world's oldest and occupied castle resides, both had a combined value of approximately £6 million. Due to the family’s inability to make payments towards the properties' outstanding mortgage and late payments, the two Windsor properties were sold at an approximate value of £4 million, causing a loss of £2 million to Hafeez and his family.

FBI trap for Karachi businessman

The unjust case of Hafeez is merely one of the many examples of the attempt to extradite innocent people to the US. The repeal of extradition charges for Karachi businessman, Jabir Motiwala on incorrect drug charges, presents us with the intricate operation that the United States FBI to set up the victim.

Former Karachi criminal and FBI secret agent, Kamran Faridi had been used by the US to engage in dangerous undercover operations to help infiltrate and target international terrorist operatives, local Pakistani gangs and D-Company, a South Asian criminal network. One of the operations he had to engage in was that of the Motiwala affair, under which Faridi refused to continue testifying against Jabir. He had claimed that he will not continue lying and setting up the Pakistani on false pretenses for the use of the US.

Motiwala was a businessman from Karachi who had been arrested in 2018 in Edgware Road Hilton Hotel and imprisoned in Wandsworth prison for 32 months waiting to hear back about his extradition case to the US. Requested by the US, he was charged on allegations of the importation of drugs, extortion, and money laundering in the US before having them dropped due to the weak prosecution case they had against him. Faridi’s refusal to continue setting up Motiwala as a witness led to the collapse of this case.

Through wiretapping Faridi’s phone, the FBI had prevented him from flying to the UK, out of fear that the former agent would testify before the court on his orders to lie and falsely testify against Motiwala.

According to the former FBI agent, he was instructed to sign a false testimony against the convict, linking Motiwala to notorious drug gangs and the D-Company, whilst accusing him of being Dawood Ibrahim's secondhand man. However, there had been no concrete evidence to prove such accusations, with Motiwala denying all charges against him.

Like the case of Lahore gold trader Hafeez, if Motiwala’s extradition case had not been dropped, his human rights under Article 3 of the Extradition Act 2003 would have been breached, especially considering his history of depression and previous suicide attempts.

The case of Faridi and Motiwala shows the extent to which the US is willing to abandon those who have served their country and build a web of accusations to present the world with the image they desire.



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