The Westminster Magistrates’ Court will on 25th February rule whether jailed diamond merchant Nirav Modi could be extradited or not. He faces charges of fraud and money laundering in the estimated Rs. 14 Crore ($2 billion) Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case.
The 49-year-old fugitive diamantine is expected to appear via video link from Wandsworth Prison in south-west London at the Magistrates’ Court presided by District Judge Samuel Gooze who is set to hand down his judgment. The Court’s decision will then be sent back to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for a sign off, which will be appealable in the High Court on either side contingent on the outcome.
The jeweller was arrested on an extradition warrant on March 19, 2019 and since then his multiple attempts at seeking bail have been repeatedly turned down as he was deemed to be a flight risk at both Magistrates’ and High Court level.
At present, the wanted diamond merchant is subject to two sets of criminal proceedings, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case involving a large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) or loan agreements, and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case concerning the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud. Two other charges of ‘causing the disappearance of evidence’ and ‘criminal intimidation to cause death’ were also added on to the CBI case.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) representing the Indian Government said that Modi was involved in a “ponzi-like scheme where new LoUs were used to repay old ones” and cheated the bank using three of his firms, Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds after he conspired with bank officials.
The CPS barrister Helen Malcolm also established that he was involved in threatening his life and warning the witnesses to not testify with video proofs where he can be seen intimidating dummy officers of hid company to stay away from the Indian investigating authorities.
Modi’s defence legal counsel barrister Clare Montgomery, claimed that the entire issue is a commercial dispute involving “authorised though ill-advised lending” that happened in “broad daylight” and that none of his actions meet the legal threshold of distorting the court of justice or amount to fraud. The defence has also tried drawing the Court’s attention around Modi’s perilous mental health condition, as someone who has a family history of depression and suicide.
The CPS has challenged the defence stance and had called for an independent assessment of medical records by a consultant psychiatrist for suitable assurances to be attained by the authorities in terms of his care in India. Indian government has submitted an updated video recording of prison conditions at Barrack 12 in Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai, where he is to be held in order to assure the UK Court that it stands up to the required human rights conditions of proper ventilation and natural light.