Fugitive Indian businessman Nirav Modi who is wanted in the nearly $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case, is set to appear before a UK court via video link from a London prison today for a routine “call-over” remand hearing.
48-year-old Modi is fighting extradition to India at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, and is expected to be given a confirmed date for his trial, expected in May next year.
“No progress today, I’m afraid,” Judge Tan Ikram said at the last call-over hearing on August 22, as he gave directions for the court clerk to seek a confirmation of the proposed five-day extradition trial to start on May 11, 2020. There is also likely to be a case management hearing in the matter ahead of the extradition trial in February next year.
Nirav Modi has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in south-west London, one of England’s most overcrowded jails, since his arrest in March on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government, being represented by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in court.
Under the UK law, Nirav Modi is expected to be produced before the court within a 28-day period during his judicial custody pending trial. Since his arrest, his legal team, led by solicitor Anand Doobay and barrister Clare Montgomery, have made four bail applications, which have been rejected each time due to Nirav Modi being deemed a flight risk.
In her judgment handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on his last bail appeal in June, Justice Ingrid Simler had concluded there were “substantial grounds” to believe that Nirav Modi would fail to surrender as he does possess the means to “abscond.”
Reiterating similar concerns as those previously raised by Westminster Magistrates’ Court during earlier bail attempts, Judge Simler ruled that after considering all the material “carefully”, she had found strong evidence to suggest there had been interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the case and concluded it can still occur.
“The applicant has access to considerable financial resources, supported by an increased [bail bond security] offer of GBP 2 million,” the judge noted.
The High Court judge stressed that while it was not for her to take a “definitive view” on the evidence, she had proceeded on the basis that the government of India has acted in good faith in what is “undoubtedly” a serious case and a “sophisticated international conspiracy” to defraud, together with money laundering.
Nirav Modi was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers on an extradition warrant on March 19 and has been in prison since. During subsequent hearings, Westminster Magistrates” Court was told that Nirav Modi was the “principal beneficiary” of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.
Earlier this month Interpol also issued a red corner notice against brother of Nirav Modi, for his alleged role in helping him. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) requested the Interpol to locate and arrest Nehal Modi who is a Belgian national.
Nehal, who lives in New York, looked after Nirav’s business in US and Europe. He was the director of Firestar Diamond Inc and they filed for bankruptcy in the US just after they fled India.
(With inputs from PTI)