Dubai approves extradition of financier accused of tax fraud

Dec 29, 2022, 9:08 AM | Updated: 10:09 am
FILE - Sanjay Shah poses for a photograph on the Palm Jumeriah Island in Dubai, United Arab Emirate...

FILE - Sanjay Shah poses for a photograph on the Palm Jumeriah Island in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 29, 2020. A court in Dubai on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022 approved the extradition to Denmark of the British financier Sanjay Shah, accused of orchestrating a $1.7 billion tax scheme. (AP Photo/Christopher Pike, File)

(AP Photo/Christopher Pike, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A court in Dubai on Thursday approved the extradition to Denmark of a British financier accused of orchestrating a $1.7 billion tax scheme.

Hedge fund trader Sanjay Shah is accused of masterminding a scheme that ran from 2012 to 2015 in which foreign businesses pretended to own shares in Danish companies and claimed tax refunds for which they were not eligible.

The Dubai government’s media office said documents show “his involvement in fraud and money laundering.” Shah was arrested in Dubai earlier this year following a request from Danish authorities. Dubai’s attorney general had appealed a ruling in September that rejected his extradition.

In a separate ruling that month, Shah was ordered to pay $1.25 billion to Denmark’s tax authority as part of a civil case in Dubai. His lawyers are appealing that judgment.

Shah’s attorney, Ali Al Zarooni, said he was “disappointed” with the latest extradition ruling and would lodge an appeal before the highest court in the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located. He said the defense team expects a final verdict from that court in the next two months.

The 52-year-old financier has maintained his innocence in interviews with journalists but never appeared in Denmark to answer accusations. His defense has argued in closed-door hearings that Denmark did not follow the procedures laid out in international extradition treaties.

Denmark welcomed the ruling as a “great victory.”

“It has required a sustained effort from Danish diplomacy to reach this point and constructive cooperation with the Emirati authorities,” Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen told Danish broadcaster DR. “Hopefully, today we have come a big step closer to bringing Sanjay Shah to justice in the extortion case.”

Shah’s lifestyle on Dubai’s luxurious palm-shaped island over the past few years had sparked outrage in Denmark. After Danish authorities signed an extradition agreement with the UAE, Dubai police arrested Shah in June. Shah is one of several suspects sought over the tax scheme.

During his time in Dubai, the hedge fund manager ran a center for autistic children that shut down in 2020 as Denmark sought his extradition. He also oversaw a British-based charity, Autism Rocks, which raised funds through concerts and performances.

His arrest comes as pressure grows on Dubai, the region’s financial hub, over its alleged weaknesses in combating illicit finance. The UAE, a federation of seven emirates, has long invited the wealthy, including disgraced public figures, to invest in the country without questioning where they made their money.

In recent months, however, the UAE has arrested several suspects wanted for major crimes, including two of the Gupta brothers from South Africa, accused of facilitating vast public corruption and draining state resources with former President Jacob Zuma. An Emirati official also recently became president of Interpol, the international police agency.

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Dubai approves extradition of financier accused of tax fraud