A BRITISH high court will hear a continuation appeal in the extradition case of Nirav Modi, the fugitive diamond merchant wanted in India to face charges of fraud and money laundering, in London on June 28.
Modi is accused defrauding Punjab National Bank (PNB), one of the India’s largest banks, of $1.8 billion. The 51-year-old diamond merchant had lodged an appeal against his extradition order on mental health grounds.
Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay presided over an initial hearing at the court in December last year to determine whether district judge Sam Goozee’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruling from February 2021 in favour of extradition was incorrect to overlook the diamond merchant’s “high risk of suicide”.
The hearing in June is for a continuation of that appeal.
According to officials familiar with the case, the Indian government has given assurances about the conditions in which Modi will be detained if he is extradited to India where facilities will be available to care for his “physical and mental health”.
At the June hearing, both sides will make submissions on whether those assurances are sufficient and can be relied upon.
“He is at high risk of suicide already and his condition is likely to deteriorate further in Mumbai,” Edward Fitzgerald QC had argued on behalf of Modi during an appeal hearing in December.
Modi remains behind bars at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest in March 2019.
He is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings, with a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case relating to a large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of letters of undertaking (LoUs) or loan agreements.
A second Enforcement Directorate (ED) case relates to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.
He also faces two additional charges of “causing the disappearance of evidence” and intimidating witnesses or “criminal intimidation to cause death”, which were added to the CBI case.
Modi’s legal team has argued against extraditing him due to his mental condition that they claim could lead to suicidal impulses, given the family history of suicide of his mother, and that he is at risk of “flagrant denial of justice” in India.
His lawyers have also claimed the Covid-19 pandemic is “overwhelming” the Indian prison system.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of India, has highlighted the “high level of diplomatic assurance” to provide adequate medical attention to the accused on being extradited to face trial in India.
If Modi wins this appeal hearing in the high court, he cannot be extradited unless the Indian government is successful in getting permission to appeal at the Supreme Court on a point of law of public importance.
If he loses this appeal hearing, Modi can approach the Supreme Court on a point of law of public importance, to be applied for to the Supreme Court against the high court’s decision within 14 days of a high court verdict.
After all the avenues in the UK courts are exhausted, the diamantaire could still seek a so-called Rule 39 injunction from the European Court of Human Rights.