LONDON: Lawyers for the founder of collapsed private equity firm Abraaj Group are urging a British court to refuse his extradition to the United States on fraud charges, arguing London was the nexus of the firm's business and so he should stand trial there.

Arif Naqvi, whose extradition hearing started this week, is among several people charged by U.S. prosecutors with being part of an international scheme to defraud investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Naqvi has previously denied the charges through a public relations firm. 

Lawyers for Naqvi, currently out on bail in Britain, said U.S. authorities intended to rely extensively on the evidence of his co-accused Sev Vettivettipillai, a former managing director of Abraaj, who was based in the United Kingdom.

Dubai-based Abraaj was the largest buyout fund in the Middle East and North Africa until it collapsed in 2018 after investors raised concerns about the management of its $1 billion healthcare fund.

The Pakistani's lawyers argued the extradition request should be refused as a substantial part of Naqvi's activity central to the U.S. allegations was based in London, including Abraaj's investor coverage team, in addition to his family ties to the city.

"If the group had a beating heart it was in Dubai, but its mind and control was wherever Arif was, which was often in London, which is where the main investor coverage operation was," the defence's skeleton argument quoted Adnan Siddiqui, Abraaj's former general counsel, as saying.

If extradited, the document said there were grounds for believing Naqvi might be detained before a U.S. trial.

In New York, he might be held in either the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) or the Metropolitan Detention Centre (MDC), the defence said, adding conditions would be incompatible with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

If convicted in the United States, the document noted Naqvi was most likely to be sentenced to over 30 years' imprisonment and could begin serving that sentence in a high security institution.

(Editing by Mark Potter) ((; +442075428510; Reuters Messaging: