London, Jul 8 (PTI) A UK court presiding over the extradition case of Sanjay Bhandari, an accused arms dealer wanted in India on money laundering and tax evasion charges, on Thursday set the trial date in the case for February 2022.
District Judge Michael Snow heard that the case involves two extradition requests from the Indian authorities for Bhandari, the first related to money laundering and the second to tax evasion.
The 59-year-old, who was present in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London for the case management hearing, spoke only to confirm his name and to say that he does not consent to being extradited to India. He will remain on conditional bail until the extradition hearing next year, with some relaxed bail conditions agreed by the court on Thursday.
“This is a substantial case with a significant number of documents which require a length of time to be assessed,” Judge Snow told Bhandari as he confirmed the extradition hearing dates next year between February 21 and March 9.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), appearing in court on behalf of the Indian authorities, ran through the charges faced by the accused businessman, now based in London.
Besides money laundering, Bhandari is accused of not declaring all his worldwide assets to the Indian tax authorities including covering up with “falsified documents” that he owned a property in the British Virgin Islands.
“He did not avail of the opportunity to voluntarily declare his assets overseas for which he is liable to be taxed in India,” said CPS barrister Ben Lloyd.
The defence barrister, Mark Summers QC, made an application for a more relaxed bail regime to allow Bhandari to be able to take some holidays with his family within England and Wales.
“He has complied with all the extremely stringent conditions and the delay faced in the case is not of his making. It would be reasonable to allow him some breaks without residence restrictions, with sufficient advance notice to the CPS,” said Summers.
The judge agreed to relax the bail conditions, which remove the requirement for Bhandari to report to a local police station on a regular basis. His electronically tagged curfew hours are scheduled between midnight and 6 am, when he must be at his declared London residential address. He is also allowed to stay at an alternative address, where the curfew would not apply, as long as he seeks advance notice from the CPS for occasional family breaks.
Meanwhile, other conditions such as the bail security provided to the court of around GBP 120,000 and the surrender of his passport remain in place.
Bhandari is sought by the Indian authorities for prosecution for money laundering contrary to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002. He faces cases against him in India filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The Indian government’s extradition request for Bhandari had been certified by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on June 16 and he was arrested a month later in London on July 15 last year. PTI AK SCY SCY