London, Mar 3 (PTI) Sanjay Bhandari, an accused middleman and consultant in arms deals, appeared at a London court for the start of his extradition hearing on Thursday.
The 60-year-old faces two extradition requests from the Indian authorities, the first related to money laundering and the second to tax evasion.
District Judge Michael Snow heard that for the purpose of the hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the threshold was “relatively low” to establish a prima facie case, or that the accused has a case to answer in the Indian court, and not have to prove every point as if it were a trial.
“Mr Bhandari was resident in India for tax purposes but failed to declare overseas assets,” said barrister Ben Lloyd, appearing for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on behalf of the Indian government.
Opening the case on day one, he outlined that Bhandari is accused of concealing assets, using backdated documents, benefiting from the assets not declared to the Indian tax authorities and then falsely informing the authorities that he did not possess any overseas assets.
“This, in our submission, amounts to the conduct of fraud by false representation,” said Lloyd, with reference to the equivalent crime in the British jurisdiction.
The CPS took the judge through several documents to show that there were companies linked with Bhandari outside India, bank accounts abroad used to receive money, deposits in the bank accounts of certain shell companies and details of properties in Dubai and the UK.
The court heard that Bhandari is charged with an offence under India’s Black Money Act for a failure to disclose his foreign income within a compliance window of September 30, 2015.
He is said to have initially maintained that he possessed no foreign assets and then when certain documents were recovered, he accepted ownership of some of the assets.
Bhandari reportedly maintained that he did not own assets outside India, only business relations with companies outside India related to technology transfer. He claims to have set up a trust, which meant he did not have beneficial ownership of foreign assets.
The extradition case is scheduled for five days and will go into next week as it hears evidence from experts to be deposed by Bhandari’s legal team, led by barrister James Stansfeld.
Bhandari, who is now based in London, remains on bail on a security provided to the court of around 120,000 pounds and the surrender of his passport.
He faces cases against him in India filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), with some representatives from the latter present in court to follow the proceedings.
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, 2020. PTI AK RUP AKJ RUP