Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi is set to appear via video link for the second leg of his extradition trial at a UK court on Monday. Nirav Modi was arrested in March last year with charges of major financial offences in India. The 49-year-old jeweller is facing extradition charges related to the estimated USD 2-billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case brought by the Indian government, being represented at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Aligning with the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, District Judge Samuel Goozee has commanded Modi’s appearance from a room in Wandsworth Prison with social distancing norms in place for the part-remote setting for the five-day hearing scheduled to end on Friday. Modi, 49, is the subject of two extradition requests – one processed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the other by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Since his arrest in March 2019, he has been denied bail five times.
UK extradition rules state that the court needs to determine whether there is a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering mentioned in the material supplied by the Indian government. Reaching the final judgement is not the purpose of the trial. More hearings are expected this year and a ruling on extradition is due in December. The ruling will take the form of a recommendation to the home secretary whether any bars exist to Modi’s extradition or not.
The charges against the diamond merchant centre around his firms Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds making fraudulent use of a credit facility offered by PNB, known as “letters of undertaking” (LoUs). The second extradition request was made based on two additional offences as part of the CBI case.
As a part of the CBI case, two additional offences accounted for the second extradition request. It was certified by UK home secretary Priti Patel on February 20 as necessary under the 1993 India-UK extradition treaty. The CPS, appearing on behalf of India, had told the court that several PNB staff conspired with Modi to ensure LoUs were issued to his companies without ensuring they were subject to the required credit check, without recording the issuance of the LoUs and without charging the required commission.