PATIALA: A Hong Kong court on Tuesday cleared the extradition of Ramanjit Singh Romi, the key conspirator in the 2016 Nabha jailbreak case.
Romi, 30, had filed a plea challenging his extradition to India and that was dismissed by the HK court on Tuesday, paving the way for Indian authorities to bring him back to face multiple cases, ranging from Nabha jailbreak conspiracy, to funding of terror modules, to credit card fraud, to setting up of an arms base in Patiala to spread terror-like activities. All these charges are equivalent to 28 serious offences in Hong Kong.
Romi had fled to Hong Kong, where he has permanent residency, in June 2016 after jumping bail. A close associate of slain gangsters Vicky Gounder and Prema Lahoria, Romi had facilitated the Nabha jailbreak by providing funds and later helping the escaped inmates coordinate their movements by individually staying in touch with them through internet telephony.
India will, however, have to wait a little longer before getting Romi’s custody as he has the option to file an appeal in a higher court in Hong Kong. After that, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will have to sign on his extradition papers.
Assistant inspector-general of police, Punjab, G S Chauhan, who had been pursuing Romi’s extradition case right from the beginning, said: “We are waiting for Romi to exhaust all his legal options before we move in to bring him back.”
Hong Kong police had arrested Romi in February 2018 in connection with a robbery at Choi Hung Estate, one of the oldest public housing estates in the city located in the Wong Tai Sin district of Kowloon, and had accused him of robbing 36.2 million HK dollars (Rs 30 crore). He was also accused of involvement in a 3.2 million HK dollars robbery case in Hong Kong in March 2017.
It was only 10 days after his arrest that Hong Kong police realised a red-corner notice had been issued against him by the Interpol in January 2017.
Romi has been in custody in Hong Kong since his arrest. He has been lodged at high-security Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre (prison). Robbery charges against him were dropped in one case and the same were not proved against him in the other.
He, however, continued in detention as India had filed his extradition papers by then. In June this year, the court had barred Romi from taking the ‘torture plea’ while he challenged his extradition to India. He had claimed he was “at risks of brutal treatment if returned to the country of his birth”. However, the magistrate turned down his plea putting on record that such claim should be heard by the immigration department. Romi had also taken the plea that India was targeting him for his “political activities” (supporting Khalistan) and he would face torture if sent back.
After Romi has exhausted all his legal options, the Hong Kong court will grant his “provisional arrest” to Punjab Police and a team of senior officials will go there to bring him back. A team of legal experts from Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is in Hong Kong to challenge his extradition. SFJ is a US-based group that supports the secession of Punjab from India as Khalistan.
Nabha jailbreak conspiracy
Besides setting up a “control room” in Hong Kong, Romi is also accused of having transferred funds to India for purchase of firearms and ammunition used in the Nabha jailbreak in which six inmates — Vicky Gounder, Neeta Deol, Aman Dhottian, Gurpreet Sekhon (all gangsters), Harminder Singh Mintoo and Baba Kashmira Singh (militants) — had fled from the jail.
The external affairs ministry has invoked the two-decade-old India-Hong Kong extradition treaty signed in 1997 for the first time to bring back Romi. Article 5 of the treaty says, “If the offence for which surrender of a fugitive offender is requested under this agreement is punishable according to the law of the requesting party with the death penalty, and if in respect of such an offence the death penalty is not provided for by the law of the requested party, surrender may be refused unless the requesting party gives such assurances as the requested party considers sufficient that the death penalty will not be imposed or if imposed will not be carried out.”





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