London: A UK court on Thursday ordered the extradition of fugitive Nirav Modi after a nearly two-year-long legal battle and accepted the Indian case that he threatened witnesses and tampered with evidence.
District Judge Samuel Goozee at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court also accepted the prima facie evidence against Modi for money laundering. “Many of these are a matter for trial in India. I am satisfied again that there is evidence he could be convicted,” the court said.
The magistrate said that the detention condition in India was satisfactory and that Barrack 12 considered acceptable as place for detention. “Conditions in Barack 12 look far better than his current cell in London,” the court said.
The court also found medical arrangements in India for Modi acceptable.
Fugitive diamantaire Modi is lodged in a London prison as he contests his extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering in the estimated Rs 14-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case.
The 49-year-old was expected to appear via video link from Wandsworth Prison in south-west London at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where District Judge Samuel Goozee handed down his judgment on whether the jeweller has a case to answer before the Indian courts.
The magistrates’ court ruling will be sent back to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for a sign-off, with the possibility of appeals in the High Court on either side depending on the outcome.
He is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case relating to a large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of letters of undertaking (LoUs) 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 “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), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, has sought to establish a prima facie case against him and also to establish that there are no human rights issues blocking his extradition to India. CPS barrister Helen Malcolm has argued that the jeweller presided over a “ponzi-like scheme where new LoUs were used to repay old ones”.
A ponzi scheme typically refers to an investment scam that generates funds for earlier investors with money taken from later investors and the CPS has claimed that Modi 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 have also played videos in court as proof of Modi’s involvement in intimidating dummy officers of his companies to remain out of the reach of Indian investigating authorities. 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. Besides, the defence has also relied on arguments around Modi’s precarious mental health condition, as someone who has a family history of depression and suicide.