Nirav Modi To Be Produced Before U.K. Court In Extradition Case On Thursday
Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi is set to be produced before a court in London on Thursday as he fights extradition to India in the nearly $2-billion fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank
Modi, 48, has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in Southwest London since his third attempt at seeking bail in the extradition case was rejected by Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot at the last hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier in May.
He is set to be produced from custody before Judge Arbuthnot for hearing, during which a broad timeline is expected for his extradition trial.
“This is a large fraud and the doubling of security to two million pounds is not sufficient to cover a combination of concerns that he would fail to surrender,” Arbuthnot had ruled at the last hearing on May 8. “A combination of interference with witnesses, destruction of servers and mobile phones and the lack of community ties means I still have doubts that he would fail to surrender before the court.”
On March 19, Modi was arrested by the Scotland Yard on an extradition warrant when he was attempting to open a new bank account at Metro Bank in Central London. He has been in prison since.
During subsequent hearings, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that Nirav Modi was the “principal beneficiary” of the fraudulent letters of undertaking as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.
“His experience in custody has been vivid and damaging. He is willing to abide by any bail conditions imposed by the court because Wandsworth is unliveable and makes the effective preparation of his case virtually impossible,” Clare Montgomery, Nirav Modi's barrister, had told the court at the last hearing, in an attempt to persuade the judge to grant bail on a strict 24-hour curfew at his posh Centrepoint apartment in the West End of London.
“Suffice to say efforts to present him (by the government of India) as a diabolical mechanic and cold-blooded, hardened criminal are completely false,” she stressed.
However, the judge was particularly concerned about Modi’s “lack of community ties” in the U.K., having been based in London for only a short period of time. The judge also pointed to the “luring away” of witnesses from India to far away destinations like Egypt.
“There does seem to be a luring away of witnesses and some pressure that took witnesses away from India,” Arbuthnot noted, making specific reference to a transcript of a conversation which indicated that Nirav Modi may have been using his US-based brother Nehal Modi to do his “dirty work as it were”.
A team from the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation were present in the court as Crown Prosecution Service barrister Nick Hearn—arguing on behalf of the Indian government—presented a “plausible and coherent” account of witnesses being leaned on by associates of Nirav Modi.
Arbuthnot noted that he had “squirrelled away” funds that he may use for his escape from the U.K. if released on bail, which means he has remained at Wandsworth prison one of England's most over-crowded jails.
Modi’s legal team, led by solicitor Anand Doobay, have repeatedly asserted that the Indian authorities must present a “perfectly paginated” set of documents in support of the extradition case against their client. It is a direct reference to the disorganised state of the paperwork in previous Indian extradition cases, most recently that of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya.
Arbuthnot, the judge who had ordered the Mallya extradition in December 2018, has been very firm with the CPS, representing the Indian government, about proper indexing of all documents to be submitted to the court in relation to the Nirav Modi extradition case.