London, February 25: A UK court on Thursday allowed the Indian government’s request seeking the extradition of diamond merchant Nirav Modi, a key accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case. The Westminster Court’s decision will have to be ratified first by the UK home secretary. Nirav Modi could then appeal against the order in a UK high court.
The UK Magistrate has indicted Nirav Modi on all charges levelled by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which are probing the bank scandal. From colluding with bank officials to defraud PNB and intimidating witnesses to laundering of money and indulging in illegitimate business, the UK Court has found force in the evidence produced by the Indian agencies against Nirav Modi, The Economic Times reported.
Dressed in a black jacket and with a peppered beard, the 49-year-old diamond merchant joined the court proceedings via a video link from the Wandsworth prison in the UK. He has been behind bars since March 2019. The extradition trial took two years to conclude. His bails were rejected seven times by UK courts. Nirav Modi still has two appeals left in the UK’s higher courts and a plea seeking political asylum, all of which will have to be decided against him before he can be deported to India.
Allowing the extradition plea of the Indian government, the UK court held: “I am satisfied that there is evidence upon which Nirav Deepak Modi could be convicted in relation to the conspiracy to defraud the PNB. A prima facie case is established.” The Westminster Court has also recorded that there was a prima facie case of money laundering. The court perused statements of officials of the Brady House branch of PNB, affidavits of investigating officers, documentary evidence and video and audio recordings of Nirav Modi’s brother with allegedly dummy directors of his companies to conclude his judgement.
The judge recorded that he had received 16 volumes of evidence and information from the Indian government and 16 bundles of expert reports and defence evidence. “Unlike the evidence from the defence, the evidence produced by the GOI in the case, through no fault of counsel, was poorly presented and very difficult to navigate,” the 83-page order reads.
Nirav Modi did not give evidence at the extradition hearing.