High Court reporters
A bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of notorious international conwoman Farah Damji, who lost a Supreme Court bid to prevent her extradition to the UK and has failed to appear before a scheduled sitting of the High Court.
For the past two years, Ugandan-born Damji (55) has been fighting her extradition to the UK, where she had been on trial for twice breaching a restraining order before absconding to Ireland. She is the daughter of a deceased South African-born property tycoon and has a criminal record for fraud and theft stretching back to the 1990s.
During her trial at Southwark Crown Court in February 2020, Damji fled to Dublin and arrived by travelling under false documents and using the Icelandic name Anna Margaret Vignisdottir.
The London court convicted Damji in her absence and she was subsequently arrested by gardaí in Dublin in August 2020 on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.
She was initially denied bail in September 2020 after the High Court deemed her at high-risk of absconding, with Mr Justice Tony Hunt noting that if he were to ignore the risk "the casual observer might think I had taken leave of my senses".
However, six months later, Mr Justice Paul Burns found she should be granted bail on the grounds of proportionality. He said the sentence Damji was facing in the UK was nine months' imprisonment but she had already been in custody in Ireland for eight months while fighting her extradition.
In January, the High Court ordered that Damji be surrendered to UK authorities despite her legal team arguing that her mental health needs would not be catered for in a UK prison. Damji then appealed that order to the Supreme Court, who earlier this month ruled that there was no basis for concluding that the High Court judge erred in his findings that led to him ordering Damji’s surrender.
Damji was due to appear before the High Court on June 20th but contacted her lawyers claiming she had Covid-19 and would be unable to attend court on that day. The court adjourned her case to the following Monday to fix a date to finalise her extradition.
However, on June 22nd the High Court issued a warrant for Damji's arrest after being informed that gardaí who had asked for the Covid certificate to be checked could not gain sight of it.
The High Court previously heard that Damji's father was a multi-millionaire who passed away over 10 years ago. She told gardaí however that his fortune had been put into a trust for his grandchildren and that she did not inherit his wealth.
Damji has previous convictions which include multiple theft and fraud offences dating back to 1995 and is currently under investigation for alleged offences under the Theft and Fraud Act.
She was convicted at Southwark Crown Court for breaching a restraining order granted to two males, by naming, stalking and harassing them between April and June 2018. The restraining order had precluded her from naming, by any means, a male who was a victim of her harassment. She also faces a breach of licence sentence for absconding from her trial.
At Damji's UK trial, the court outlined how she had called one victim ten times a day, had left voicemails and had contacted his wife's cousins in order to get his wife's phone number regarding "concerns about her children".
At her first bail hearing before the High Court in September 2020, Detective Garda Eoin Kane said that Damji had used a false name when opening a bank account here and did the same when entering into a rental agreement for an apartment on Bachelor's Walk in Dublin city centre.
The detective said that Damji was "living under the radar" and that she gave the address of a neighbouring apartment when shipping her personal belongings from the UK before meeting and directing the delivery man to her own apartment.
Det Gda Kane rejected claims that Damji was of limited means, noting that she was in possession of a Rolex and Viking watch when she was arrested.
Counsel for the State, who reminded the court that Damji accepted she had travelled on a false document, said that the objection to bail was based on concerns that she had access to money and had an ability to move between countries.