Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi‘s third bail application, in his extradition case to India to face charges in the Punjab National Bank fraud and money laundering case amounting to up to USD 2 billion, was thwarted by the UK Court, despite his defence team was ready to pay a whopping amount of 2 million pounds, double the sum, as bail security.
The next hearing in his extradition proceedings has been scheduled for May 30. He was taken back to Wandsworth prison, where he has been lodged after he was arrested on March 20, 17 months after he fled India. He was arrested by Scotland Yard officers from a central London bank branch, while he had been trying to open a new bank account. Since then has been in custody at the HMP Wandsworth prison in south-west London.
Nirav Modi’s bail, which had already been rejected twice before by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, came up for a third attempt before Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot.
Nirav Modi’s legal team, led by solicitor Anand Doobay, had previously offered 1 million pounds as security alongside an offer to meet stringent electronic tag restrictions on their client’s movements, “akin to house arrest.” On Wednesday this was furthered bolstered by doubling the sum and offering a 24-hour electronic tag curfew.
However, the chief justice ruled that while the doubling of security offered by Nirav Modi’s lawyers did amount to a change in circumstances in order for her to hear the “renewed” bail plea, she still had similar concerns as before that he would fail to surrender before the court.
“This is a large fraud and the doubling of security to 2 million pounds is not sufficient to cover a combination of concerns that he would fail to surrender (if bail is granted),” said Judge Arbuthnot.
His defence team argued, “His experience in custody has been vivid and damaging. He is willing to abide by any bail conditions imposed by the court because Wandsworth is ‘unliveable’ and makes the effective preparation of his case virtually impossible,” said his barrister Clare Montgomery, in an attempt to persuade the judge to grant bail on a strict 24-hour curfew at his posh Centrepoint apartment in the West End of London.
However, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot who was particularly concerned about Nirav Modi’s “lack of community ties” in the UK, denied bail to Modi as she feared that he would fail to surrender if granted bail. “Given the nature of the crime of sizeable fraud and that USD, 60 million has been squirrelled away by him personally. The interference of witnesses, destruction of servers and mobile phones, combined with a lack of community ties mean I still have doubts that he would fail to surrender.”
Modi will remain at the Wandsworth prison in south-west London during this period, where he will be allowed to hold sessions with his legal team to deliberate on the future course of the extradition case.
Few days prior to his arrest, media had tracked Nirav Modi in London, who reportedly lived in a luxury 8 million pound apartment in west London, and currently dealt in the diamond business.
The Indian government was aware of his presence in the UK, and ED had already requested the UK government for extradition in July 2018. The UK government had found the Nirav Modi case fit for extradition, and the request was sent by UK Central Authority of Home Office to the Westminster Magistrate Court for further proceedings.
The Westminster Court had issued the arrest warrant against Nirav Modi as part of processing this extradition request.
Nirav Modi, his wife Ami Modi, brother Nishal Modi, and uncle Mehul Choksi are accused defrauding Punjab National Bank to the tune of Rs 14,356 crore by obtaining Letter of Undertaking without furnishing any guarantee.