Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Extradition request withdrawn

Money laundering case

Longstanding proceedings by the UK Government for the extradition of local businessman Raju Soneji on money laundering charges came to an end at the Supreme Court yesterday morning with Mr Soneji’s release by the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Derek Schofield.

Attorney General, Ricky Rhoda QC told the court that in view of a recent House of Lords case in England, the UK government had decided to withdraw the application, which had led to Mr Soneji’s arrest in June 2000.

The House of Lords had held that the prosecution in a money laundering case had to prove that the property in question was in fact the proceeds of criminal activity.
Acting for Mr Soneji, defence counsel Charles Gomez said that there had never been sufficient evidence linking his client to the allegations and that it was unfortunate that it had taken so long for Mr Soneji to be discharged. According to Mr Gomez, save for a brief period of time leading up to the House of Lords decision, the law had always been that the prosecution had to prove that property derived from criminal activity and there had never been any evidence linking his client to any crime.

In 2003, the then stipendiary magistrate Anthony Dudley had accepted Mr Gomez’ contention that there was no evidence to suggest that the monies allegedly laundered related to the proceeds of drugs trafficking and had discharged Mr Soneji from 9 of the charges which he faced.

A further 9 charges of non drugs money laundering became the subject of a habeas corpus application on Mr Soneji’s behalf. In turn, the prosecution had appealed the magistrate’s decision. Meanwhile, there had been a number of further applications to the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal.


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