Abraaj CEO Arif Naqvi
Abraaj CEO Arif Naqvi Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

London: Arif Naqvi, the founder of buyout fund Abraaj Group, was granted conditional bail of 15 million pounds ($20 million) by a London judge on Wednesday, despite worries by prosecutors that he may flee to Pakistan rather than face U.S. fraud charges.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled that Naqvi, 58, can't have his travel documents, must wear an electronic tag and must stay in his London home. The decision overturns the judge's own ruling from last week that denied him bail. The prosecution will appeal the decision, a spokesperson for Naqvi said on Thursday.

'Mr. Naqvi maintains his innocence, and he fully expects to be cleared of any charges,' a statement from his representatives said. 'For almost a year since the commencement of the provisional liquidations, he has been working tirelessly to maximize returns for Abraaj's creditors.'

The size of Naqvi's bail payment, however, underscores how seriously the court viewed the case. On Friday, prosecutors had called an offer to post a 1.5 million-pound security a "drop in the ocean" for him.

"This is the largest bail security I can recall being imposed by Westminster Magistrates Court in an extradition case," said Thomas Garner, an extradition lawyer at Gherson in London, who isn't involved with the case.

Naqvi is one of several Abraaj officials caught up in an American probe of what was the Middle East's biggest private-equity fund. A judge in New York on Monday agreed to release Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, a former Abraaj managing partner, for home confinement on a $10 million bond.

Naqvi is charged with inflating the value of the Dubai-based firm's holdings and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars. He denies inflating valuations and says the idea he took money out for his own personal benefit is 'ludicrous,' his lawyer told the judge last week.

Abraaj collapsed last year in the world's biggest private-equity insolvency. Founded in 2002, it grew to become one of the world's most influential emerging-market investors, with stakes in health care, clean energy, lending and real estate across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Turkey.

Naqvi surrendered control in 2018. Abraaj, which managed almost $14 billion, was forced into liquidation in June after a group of investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commissioned an audit to investigate the alleged mismanagement of money in its health-care fund.