Hedge Fund Founder in Dubai Won’t Fight Extradition in Danish Tax Case
(Bloomberg) -- Sanjay Shah, a hedge-fund manager charged by Danish prosecutors in a $1.6 billion tax-fraud probe, won’t fight extradition from his home in Dubai.
The U.K. citizen “would rather go to Denmark than be a fugitive,” according to his spokesman, Jack Irvine. “He would go at the beginning of any trial they have.”
Shah, who founded a London-based hedge fund that specialized in the Cum-Ex trades now at the center of investigations spanning Denmark, Germany and the U.K., was one of two Britons charged by Danish police on Thursday. Denmark alleges that the 50-year-old was a central figure in the fraud, in which international financiers over several years claimed dividend tax refunds to which they weren’t entitled.
Denmark has been pursuing Shah for more than half a decade, as part of a wider probe in which the country is trying to recoup about $2 billion in funds it says were stolen through dividend tax fraud. Authorities say the investigation is continuing.
Shah has maintained his innocence. On Thursday, his spokesman said the Solo Capital founder was consulting with lawyers, but reiterated past statements that Shah has never done anything wrong. In an interview last year, Shah said he took advantage of loopholes in Danish law, but never did anything illegal.
Denmark’s State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime said Shah, whom they didn’t identify by name, was party to a “cynical and meticulously planned fraud.”
If Shah agrees to go to Denmark, it will make life much easier for prosecutors. Dubai is generally considered a difficult jurisdiction for extradition proceedings.
“We obviously aren’t so naive as to think that someone from a foreign country is just going to show up for a court case in Denmark when they risk several years of prison,” Per Fiig, acting state prosecutor, said by email.
Trying to extradite Shah from Dubai “is going to be a bigger minefield” than if he was still living in London, Jasvinder Nakhwal, an extradition lawyer at Peters & Peters in London, said by phone.
If Shah is convicted, prosecutors will seek to invoke a special provision that would mean the hedge-fund founder would face as much as 12 years in prison. That would likely be the longest ever Danish sentence for financial crime.
Shah said in an interview last year that he was offered a plea bargain that would have meant four years in “a really nice cell.”
The second person charged in the case was described by Danish prosecutors as the “presumed helper” of the principal figure in the case.
Cum-Ex was a trading strategy that used the rapid trade of shares to gain duplicate tax refunds. The practice, named for the Latin term for “With-Without,” took advantage of tax laws and seemed to allow multiple investors to claim refunds on a dividend that was paid only once. Denmark alleges Shah engaged in a criminal charade to make it appear trades were made.
Fiig said he can’t comment on the potential “significance of Brexit for this case.”
Denmark filed its charges a week after the U.K. cut ties with the European Union and lost access to the European Arrest Warrant. The new arrangement provides for direct transmission between judicial authorities and limited grounds for refusal. But it also includes additional provisions to make clear that a person’s surrender can be refused if their fundamental rights are at risk, extradition would be disproportionate, or they are likely to face long periods of pre-trial detention.
For the individual charged who still lives in the U.K., it will be one of the first extradition cases to be heard under the new deal, and will act as a test case.
“Nobody knows how difficult it will be yet because we’ve not had any extradition hearings where these points have been argued yet,” Anthony Hanratty, a lawyer at BDB Pitmans in London, who specializes in extradition cases, said by phone. “We don’t know how courts are going to approach it.”
The U.K.’s National Crime Agency said it has supported the Danish investigation, and will continue to do so.
The agency is aware of the charges against the two U.K. nationals linked to an alleged fraud “committed against the Danish and Belgium tax authorities between 2012 and 2015,” NCA director of investigations Nikki Holland said by email.
The Danes have frozen as much as 3.5 billion Danish kroner ($580 million) of Shah’s assets, including a $20 million London mansion, as part of its civil case. German lawmakers have called the Cum-Ex scandal the greatest tax heist in history.
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