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UK Court orders PNB fraudster Nirav Modi’s extradition to India

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

London: Diamond merchant and a wanted accused of estimated ₹ 14,000-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case, on Thursday lost his legal battle against extradition as a UK  court dismissed his arguments like his mental health worsening during the pandemic and Indian prison conditions and ruled that he does have a case to answer before the Indian courts.

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“I am satisfied that Nirav Modi’s extradition to India is in compliance per human rights,” District Judge Samuel Goozee said, as he read out parts of his judgment in court and concluded that he had the right to appeal the order.

“There is no evidence that if extradited Nirav Modi will not get justice,” the judge said, agreeing with the submissions of the Indian government.

The judge also indicated the case for the high-profile jeweler to face trial in India was strong. He further said there were clearly links between Nirav Modi and others including bank officials in clearing Letters of Undertaking (LoU) that facilitated huge unpaid loans.

“Mr Modi personally subsequently wrote to PNB acknowledging the debt and promising to repay. The CBI is investigating that Nirav Modi firms were dummy partners,” the judge noted. These companies were shadow companies operated by Nirav Modi, he added.

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“I do not accept that Nirav Modi was involved in legitimate business. I find no genuine transactions and believe there is a process of dishonesty,” adding that the manner in which Letters of Undertaking were obtained, “the combination as a whole, takes us to the conclusion that Nirav Modi and co were fraudulently operating”, the judge said.

“Many of these are a matter for trial in India. I am satisfied again that there is evidence he could be convicted. Prima facie there is a case of money laundering.” The Judge said they have received 16 volumes of evidence from India.

The 49-year-old appeared via video conferencing from Wandsworth Prison in south-west London at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

On March 19, 2019, Nirav Modi was arrested on an extradition warrant. His multiple attempts at seeking bail have been repeatedly turned down, both at the Magistrates’ and High Court level, as he was deemed a flight risk. He is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings, with the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI case relating to a large-scale fraud upon PNB through by obtaining illegal letters of undertaking or loan agreements, and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case relating to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud. He also faces two additional charges of evidence tampering and intimidating witnesses, which were added to the CBI case.

Meanwhile, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, has argued that there are no human rights issues blocking his extradition to India. CPS barrister Helen Malcolm has argued that the jeweler presided over a “Ponzi-like scheme where new LoUs were used to repay old ones”.

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The CPS also claimed that Nirav used his firms, Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds, to make fraudulent use of PNB’s LoUs in a conspiracy with banking officials. They also furnished videos in court as proof of his involvement in intimidating dummy officers of his companies to remain out of the reach of Indian investigating authorities.

Meanwhile, prison conditions at Barrack 12 in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where Nirav Modi is to be held, have also been in focus as the Indian government submitted an updated video recording of the cell to highlight that it meets all human rights requirements of natural light and ventilation.

The billion dollar accused argued in the court that the pandemic had worsened his mental health, to which the judge said, “Modi fears prosecution in India. Although he has expressed suicidal thoughts, the government of India has reassured safe conditions in prison, through a video in August. The video shows better sanitation and hygiene than the video in 2019.”

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