Mumbai, March 20 (IANS) It could probably be a long time before absconding Mumbai diamantaire Nirav Modi – who was arrested by the London Police on Wednesdy – would actually face the extradition process initiated by the Indian government, a top British law expert said on Wednesday.
Modi was held after a UK court executed an arrest warrant issued against him by the Westminster Court on March 13, which was described as “a major victory” by India.
Last week, Indians were stunned to see a carefree Modi, sporting an Ostrich leather jacket, strutting around in London without worries as Indian agencies moved heaven and earth to trace his whereabouts.
The news of the arrest sent ripples of excitement through the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which dared the opposition Congress to question the developments, at the height of the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Sarosh Zaiwalla, Founder-Senior Partner at Zaiwalla & Co. LLP, UK said that issuing the arrest warrant is a first step of the legal process to extradite Modi – among the prime accused along with his uncle Mehul Choksi and others – in the 2018 Rs.13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.
“The arrest warrant clearly implies that the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the conduct described in the request is an extradition offence. However, as per protocol, Scotland Yard will not address extradition requests until and unless the accused (Modi) has been arrested/presented before the court,” Zaiwalla said.
There is also a time-frame attached to a warrant – as they do not last forever. So the UK police have upto three months to arrest a person – in this case, Modi – after the warrant is issued, the legal luminary told IANS in a brief analysis of the scenario shortly after Modi’s arrest.
Comparing this with another high-profile case of Indian fugitive liquor baron, Vijay Mallya, Zaiwalla said that he (Mallya) was arrested and bailed out nearly two months later, when his extradition hearings began.
“Nirav Modi will be subjected to a re-run of the Mallya case proceedings, starting from being directed to Westminister Magistrate, taken into provisional custody, applying for bail and the then the court will hear his plea,” the 71-year old Mumbai-born lawyer said.
After the court rules for Modi’s extradition, the British Home Secretary would be expected to once again sign the order for compliance. At this stage, complications could arise only if Modi has already acquired the citizenship of any European country or other international citizenship, Zaiwalla explained.
However, it would not matter if Modi remains on UK soil, but there could be delays with a long legal battle ahead subject to various international and extraterritorial legalities involved, cautioned Zaiwalla.
Incidentally, Mehul Choksi has already acquired the citizenship of Antigua & Barbados, as reported by IANS (January 21) and he had surrendered his Indian passport to India’s High Commission in Guyana.
Zaiwalla said it would be interesting to see if Nirav Modi has applied for asylum in UK, then the extradition proceedings are unlikely to begin until that (asylum) application is rejected.
“A person who applies for asylum in the UK is given ‘interim asylum’ and his status as a legal resident of UK remains until his application is finally determined and he is given asylum or rejected,” said Zaiwalla.