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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

UK minister signs extradition order for alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla

The UK Home Office confirmed on Saturday that the minister had given the go-ahead for Chawla to be sent to India after Westminster Magistrates’ Court had over-ruled its previous ruling earlier this year to find no bars to his extradition.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2019 17:35 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Chawla, a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hansie Cronje in 2000, has 14 days from the date of the order to file an application to seek leave to appeal against the order.
Chawla, a key accused in the cricket match-fixing scandal involving former South African captain Hansie Cronje in 2000, has 14 days from the date of the order to file an application to seek leave to appeal against the order. (AFP)

Britain’s home secretary Sajid Javid has ordered the extradition of suspected cricket bookie Sanjeev Chawla, who is wanted in India to face charges of match-fixing during South Africa’s tour in 2000, marking another win in India’s bid to seek extraditions from the UK.

Chawla’s extradition order comes within a month of a similar order being passed on India’s request to extradite controversial businessman Vijay Mallya on February 4. Mallya has since filed an application in the high court seeking permission to appeal against the extradition order.

A Home Office spokesperson informed Hindustan Times on Friday: “On 27 February 2019, the Secretary of State, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed the order for Sanjeev Chawla’s extradition to India”.

“Sanjeev Chawla is accused in India of match fixing in international cricket.”

Chawla has 14 working days since February 27 to apply in the high court for leave to appeal against the extradition order, citing new grounds for objecting to it. Javid’s order comes at the end of a protracted battle in the Westminster Magistrates Court and the high court since 2016.

Conditions such as overcrowding and alleged threats of violence in the Tihar Jail in Delhi amounting to a risk to Chawla’s human rights were cited as the main reason for the Westminster Magistrates Court blocking his extradition in October 2017.

India subsequently appealed against the order in the high court, winning in November 2018, after presenting detailed visual and other evidence, including another sovereign assurance from the Union home ministry that there would be no risk to Chawla’s human rights.

The high court ruled on India’s appeal that Chawla faced “no real risk” in the Tihar Jail and by doing so, removed the only bar to his extradition. The Westminster Magistrates Court was otherwise satisfied that there is a prima facie case against him on the basis of evidence gathered by the Delhi police.

In the October 2017 judgement, district judge Rebecca Crane had dismissed his objections to being extradited on the ground of ‘passage of time’ (over 15 years have elapsed since the alleged crime in India) and ‘right to family life’ (he has been living in the UK with his wife and sons since 1996).

Crane had said she was “satisfied that there is a prima facie case.... The affidavit of Bhisham Singh, the deputy commissioner of police, dated 18.05.15 also contains a very detailed summary of the evidence”.

The affidavit includes the background of the events leading to the expose of match-fixing, details of phone conversations, investigation and analysis of call details, investigation of the venues where the teams stayed, details of evidence provided by South Africa and the UK, summary of the role played by each accused and evidence against them, and forensic analysis of the voices of recorded conversations.

“There is clear evidence sufficient to make a case requiring an answer that the RP (requested person) acted with others to fix the outcome of cricket matches by providing money to members of the South African cricket team,” Crane had ruled.

Born in Delhi, Chawla lived in India until 1996, when he moved to the UK on a business visa. Court documents state that he has since lived in the UK, travelling to India and back. His Indian passport was revoked in 2000.

Chawla, who has family in the UK and India, was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2003 and obtained a UK passport in 2005, the documents state.

Sanjeev Chawla extradition case timeline:

February 1, 2016: India submits extradition request

March 11, 2016: Home secretary certifies request

May 17, 2016: Warrant for his arrest issued

June 14, 2016: Chawla arrested; bailed

2016-2017: Extradition hearings in the Westminster Magistrates Court

October 16, 2017: District judge Rebecca Crane blocks extradition on ground of risk to Chawla’s human rights in the Tihar Jail

May 4, 2018: India appeals in the high court; another sovereign assurance on Tihar jail conditions sought

July 11, 2018: India submits assurance

High court quashes the order of October 16, 2017, and remits the case to the district judge.

January 7, 2019: District judge Rebecca Craneclears Chawla’s extradition, sends file to the home secretary.

First Published: Mar 02, 2019 15:35 IST