INDIA: The High Court in London on Wednesday ordered fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s extradition to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering, amounting to an estimated Rs 14,000 crore in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam case.
Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay, who presided over the hearing of an appeal against the order of District Judge Sam Goozee delivered in February 2021, noted that Judge Goozee’s order in favour of extradition was “sound,” agency reports stated.
Nirav Modi’s lawyers had challenged a court order allowing the British government to extradite Modi, citing his mental health and risk of suicide.
However, the London High Court dismissed the appeal on Wednesday, saying Nirav Modi’s risk of suicide does not rule out his extradition.
Now Nirav Modi can appeal the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court within 14 days. If all options in UK courts are exhausted, he can seek a Rule 39 injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), according to local legal experts.
Nirav Modi’s alleged fraud came to light when PNB reported fraudulent activity at one of its branches on January 25, 2018.
Nirav Modi and officials at PNB issued fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoU) to overseas banks to obtain the buyer’s credit.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had alleged that Nirav Modi diverted over Rs 4,000 crore of the Rs 6,519 crore of outstanding fraudulent LoUs issued by PNB to his firms through 15 “dummy companies” based in the UAE and Hong Kong.
The ED submitted to the UK court transcripts of Nirav Modi’s conversations that allegedly show he tampered with evidence and intimidated witnesses while facing investigations in India.
Nirav Modi (51) fled India on January 1, 2018. India then issued an Interpol red notice for his arrest, and London authorities were asked to execute it. He was arrested in March 2019, and his extradition was approved by the court in February 2021.
Then UK Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered Modi’s extradition based on Judge Goozee’s ruling in April 2021.
The case has been undergoing an appeals process since then. Modi remains lodged in Wandsworth Prison in southwest London.
Modi is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings, with the CBI case relating to a large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of LoUs or loan agreements and the ED case relating to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.
India is a designated Part 2 country by virtue of the Extradition Act 2003, which means it is the UK Cabinet Minister who has the authority to order a requested person’s extradition after all legal issues are dealt with in the courts.
The legal action in India
On October 31, 2022, a special court allowed the ED to confiscate 39 properties belonging to Modi under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act of 2018. A similar order was first passed in 2020.
The Act has provisions to act against those evading the process of the law by fleeing the country. Under the Act, the court can declare a person a fugitive economic offender and subsequently order confiscation of his properties.
Modi’s properties include Rhythm House at Kala Ghoda (South Mumbai), valuables seized from his bungalow in Alibaug (Raigad, Maharashtra), and 22 cars.
The son of a diamond merchant, Modi built an international jewellery empire that stretched from India to New York and Hong Kong. Forbes once ranked him as India’s 85th richest man, with a net worth of $1.8 billion.
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