Fugitive from US justice loses court battle to stay in SA

01 December 2016 - 19:20 By Dave Chambers

A man wanted for financial crime in his native US has lost his fight against extradition from South Africa.

Image: Supplied

Usman Patel’s application for leave to appeal against an extradition ruling in the High Court in Johannesburg was dismissed on Thursday by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Patel will now have to stand trial in California on a total of 55 charges of breaking the US equivalent of South Africa’s Financial Intelligence Centre Act. He faces up to 10 years in jail.

Five appeal judges were told that in June 2011 the US Embassy in Pretoria had requested Patel’s extradition under a treaty with South Africa signed in 2001.

A month earlier‚ the US District Court in San Jose had issued an arrest warrant.

Under US law‚ financial institutions are required to file a report when more than $10‚000 in cash is deposited into a bank account in a single day. It is an offence to break an amount of more than $10‚000 into smaller deposits.

The appeal court judgment said: “The offences for which (Patel’s) extradition is sought were allegedly committed when he was the owner of a retail clothing business in San Jose.”

Over two-and-a-half years‚ Patel allegedly deposited $857‚670 — more than R12-million at today’s exchange rate — by deliberately keeping cash deposits below $10‚000.

In his attempt to avoid extradition‚ Patel argued that at the time the alleged offences were committed‚ between 2005 and 2007‚ South Africa did not have a similar law.

But the judges said that the key in terms of the so-called “double criminality” rule was the date of the extradition application‚ not the date of the alleged offence.

-TMG Digital/Cape Newsroom