Wanted bookie Sanjeev Chawla seeks appeal against extradition order

LONDON: Alleged bookie Sanjeev Chawla, who is wanted in India to face charges of match-fixing dating back to 2000, has filed an application in the UK High Court seeking leave to appeal against his extradition order by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.

UK home secretary Sajid Javid had signed off on the District Judge’s order in favour of the extradition last month, giving 50-year-old Chawla 14 days 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, filed the application within the 14-day time-frame, the UK Home Office confirmed on Thursday.

“On February 27, 2019, the Secretary of State (Javid), having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed the order for Sanjeev Chawla’s extradition to India,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said Chawla has since “sought leave to appeal against the decision of the District Judge”, adding as the matter is sub-judice it would “not be appropriate to comment further”.

As in the case of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, whose extradition to India was similarly cleared by Javid in early February, Chawla’s application for leave to appeal will be assessed by a High Court judge and set for a hearing if it is accepted.

However, if the application is rejected, Chawla could file a second request seeking a shorter oral hearing for his legal team to lay out the grounds against his extradition.

Following an initial trial, Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London had concluded in October 2017 that while the 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 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian authorities.

In a judgment handed down in the Royal Courts of Justice in London in November last year, 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.

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 this year, the lower court issued a fresh order in favour of Chawla’s extradition, which was sent to the UK home secretary, who formally signs 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.

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, with Chawla reportedly playing a central role, including direct contact with Cronje. PTI

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