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Surgeon trying to flee to evade extradition

India-born surgeon dubbed as Dr Death could be trying to dodge extradition from US by fleeing to India.

india Updated: Sep 20, 2006 20:56 IST

Jayant Patel Patel, dubbed as Dr Death for his alleged role in the death of 17 patients in Australia, could be trying to dodge extradition from US by fleeing to India, media reports claimed on Wednesday.

Speculation that Patel, who is under investigation by Queensland police, was trying to flee US were fuelled by reports that he had severed his ties with his Brisbane lawyer, personal injury specialist Damien Scattini and with his US counsel criminal attorney Stephen Houze.

Queensland Attorney-General Linda Lavarch, however, said the timing was not related to any imminent moves in Australia to extradite Patel from the US, which, unlike India, has an extradition treaty with Australia.

Queensland police were poised to file charges against Patel in the Brisbane magistrates court within days, triggering the start of a formal extradition process.

"Statements made in 'The Australian' regarding the implications of Patel parting ways with his legal team are nothing more than rumour and speculation," she said.

"There are no indications that Patel and his lawyers severing ties has anything to do with him planning other action."

Patel worked as director of surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland before being named in state parliament and fleeing to the United States in April last year.

Scattini declined to comment on why Dr Patel cut his ties with legal firm Quinn and Scattini.

He said there was no reason to believe he had fled to India, adding "I haven't heard any suggestion he's going to flee except from the media."

Lavarch said the possible laying of criminal charges against Patel was a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

"It is vital that the matter is thoroughly investigated and that the best possible case is assembled if charges are to proceed," she said adding "The last thing anyone would want is to jeopardise a potential extradition by fuelling speculation and innuendo."

However, Bundaberg Patients' Support Group spokeswoman Beryl Crosby said she believed Patel had run out of money and had ditched his lawyers in preparation for a flight to India.

"A few weeks ago, they (police) said they were getting a medical expert to look at the medical evidence," Crosby said adding "I think they should be moving pretty bloody quickly now.