Diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who is contesting his extradition to India, is behind bars in London on charges of fraud and money laundering. The verdict on his extradition will be delivered by the UK court today (February 25).
There are two sets of criminal proceedings against Modi, one with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) relating to a large-scale fraud involving the Punjab National Bank (PNB) through the fraudulent obtaining of letters of undertaking (LoUs) or loan agreements, and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case relating 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.
If Modi is brought to India, he will be kept in Barrack 12 in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai. The Indian government submitted an updated video recording of the cell to highlight that it meets all human rights requirements of natural light and ventilation.
What happened after his arrest…
On March 19, 2019, Modi was arrested on an extradition warrant.
Post that, he has appeared via videolink from Wandsworth Prison for a series of court hearings in the extradition case.
His multiple attempts at seeking bail have been repeatedly turned down, both at the magistrates' and high court level.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, has sought to establish a prima facie case against him, and also to establish that there are no human rights issues blocking his extradition to India. CPS barrister Helen Malcolm has argued that the jeweller presided over a "ponzi-like scheme where new LoUs were used to repay old ones."
A ponzi scheme typically refers to an investment scam that generates funds for earlier investors with money taken from later investors, and the CPS has claimed that Modi used his firms—Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports, and Stellar Diamonds—to make fraudulent use of PNB's LoUs, colluding with some of the bank's officials.
They have also played videos in court as proof of Modi's involvement in intimidating dummy officers of his companies to remain out of the reach of Indian investigating authorities.
Modi's defence team, led by barrister Clare Montgomery, has claimed that the entire issue is a commercial dispute involving "authorised though ill-advised lending" that took place in "broad daylight." It is also claimed that none of his actions meet the legal threshold of perverting the course of justice, or amount to fraud.
Besides, the defence has also relied on arguments around Modi's precarious mental health condition, as someone who has a family history of depression and suicide.
During a series of hearings in the course of the extradition case last year and early this year, Westminster Magistrates' Court has also heard detailed arguments from both sides about why Modi's "deteriorating" mental health condition does or does not meet the Section 91 threshold of the Extradition Act 2003, which was most recently used in the UK to block the extradition of Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange on the grounds of it being "unjust and oppressive" as he is a high suicide risk.
The CPS has challenged the defence stance and called for an independent evaluation of medical records by a consultant psychiatrist for appropriate assurances to be acquired by the authorities in terms of his care in India.
On February 25, 2021, the UK extradition judge ordered that Modi will be extradited to India to stand trial. UK Extradition judge ruled that Modi has a case to answer for in India. Expressing satisfaction over the detention condition and medical arrangements in India, the court said, "Conditions in Barack 12 (at the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai) look far better than his current cell in London."
(With inputs from agencies)