UK Extradition judge: PNB scam primary accused Nirav Modi can be extradited to India
The UK Extradition court sent Nirav Modi extradition order to the Secretary of State
UK Extradition judge rules that Nirav Modi will not be denied justice if he is extradited to India
A UK judge today said prima facie case was established against Nirav Modi on charges of fraud and money laundering in an estimated $2-billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case. After a nearly two-year-long legal battle, Judge at Westminster Magistrate's Court accepts money laundering charges against Nirav Modi.
The UK court also accepted that the accused had threatened witnesses and tampered with evidence and sent Nirav Modi’s extradition order to the Secretary of State. The judge also ruled that Modi will not be denied justice if he is extradited to India.
Issues such as Nirav Modi's "mental health concerns" were dismissed too. The Court ruled 'they are not unusual in a man in his circumstances'.
The 49-year-old diamantaire was arrested following an extradition warrant on March 19, 2019, and has appeared via videolink from Wandsworth Prison for a series of court hearings in the case. Earlier both at the Magistrates’ and High Court level, his attempt to secure bail was also denied as he was deemed a flight risk.
The order was passed keeping in view two sets of criminal proceedings, one with the CBI relating to a large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of letters of undertaking (LoUs) or loan agreements, and the other following ED case relating to the laundering of the proceeds.
He also faces two additional charges of "causing the disappearance of evidence" and intimidating witnesses or "criminal intimidation to cause death", which were added on to the CBI case.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) barrister Helen Malcolm, arguing on behalf of the Indian government, sought to establish a prima facie case against him and also to establish that there are no human rights issues blocking his extradition.
Modi's defence team, led by barrister Clare Montgomery, has claimed that the entire issue is a commercial dispute involving "authorised though ill-advised lending" that took place in "broad daylight". It is also claimed that none of his actions meet the legal threshold of perverting the course of justice or amounted to fraud.
The defence had also relied on arguments around Modi’s precarious mental health condition, as someone who has a family history of depression and suicide. But the court relied on the argument by CPS that Modi's "deteriorating" mental health condition does not meet the Section 91 threshold of the Extradition Act 2003 – which was most recently been used in the UK to block the extradition of Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange on the grounds of it being "unjust and oppressive" as he is a high suicide risk.
The CPS has challenged the defence stance and had called for an independent evaluation of medical records by a consultant psychiatrist for appropriate assurances to be acquired by the authorities in terms of his care in India.
Prison conditions at Barrack 12 in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where 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.
Modi’s legal battle marks one of a number of high-profile extradition cases involving accused Indian economic offenders in the UK. While former Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya remains on bail as his extradition to India is resolved, accused arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari’s extradition case is scheduled for its next hearing in April.
In February 2020, wanted cricket bookie Sanjeev Chawla was extradited to face charges in India and became the first extradition of its kind under the India-UK Extradition Treaty, signed in 1992.
A previous extradition of Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel, wanted in connection with the Godhra riots in Gujarat, from the UK to India in October 2016 had been uncontested and therefore did not have to go through various levels of appeals in the UK courts.