By: Pramod Thomas
FUGITIVE Indian jeweller Nirav Modi was further remanded in custody on Tuesday (1) by a court in London hearing India’s extradition request for the diamond merchant.
The 49-year-old is wanted in India over his alleged involvement in a $2 billion (£1.5 billion) fraud at India’s state-run Punjab National Bank.
Modi appeared on Tuesday via videolink from Wandsworth Prison in south-west London, dressed in a maroon sweater and sporting a full beard, for his regular 28-day “call-over hearing” at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot extended Modi’s remand for a further 28 days until December 29.
“It will be another short videolink call-over hearing and then there is just over a week before closing submissions in the case,” she told Modi, who spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.
The final hearings in the extradition case are scheduled over two days, on January 7 and 8 next year, when district judge Samuel Goozee is scheduled to hear closing arguments from both sides before he hands down his judgment a few weeks later.
At the last hearing in the case on November 3, Judge Goozee heard the arguments for and against the admissibility of certain witness statements provided by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED).
He ruled that the evidence to establish a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering against the fugitive diamantaire was broadly admissible.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian authorities, stressed that the evidence, including witness statements under Section 161 of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), met the required threshold for the UK court to determine whether Modi has a case to answer before the Indian judicial system.
Modi is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings. The CBI case relates to a large-scale fraud on PNB by allegedly fraudulently obtaining of ‘Letters of Understanding’ (LOUs or loan agreements), while the ED case relates to the laundering of proceeds of that fraud.
Modi also faces two additional charges of ‘causing the disappearance of evidence’ and intimidating witnesses or “criminal intimidation to cause death” added to the CBI case.
He denies wrongdoing.
The jeweller has been in prison since he was arrested on March 19, 2019, on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard and his attempts at seeking bail have been repeatedly turned down.
The charges against him centre around his firms Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds making fraudulent use of a credit facility offered by PNB or LoUs.
The CPS, on behalf of India, have told the court during the course of two separate set of hearings in May and September that a number of PNB staff conspired with Modi to ensure the LoUs were issued to his companies without ensuring they were subject to the required credit check, without recording the issuance of the LoUs and without charging the required commission upon the transactions.
Modi’s defence team has sought to counter allegations of fraud by deposing witnesses to establish the volatility of the gems and jewellery trade and that the LoUs were standard practice. His severe depression has also been raised as part of the arguments against extradition.