Wednesday , 22 May 2019
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Diamantaire Nirav Modi arrested in UK

PTI

 

LONDON

Nirav Modi, the main accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case, has been arrested in London where a court Wednesday remanded the fugitive diamantaire in custody till March 29, saying there are “substantial grounds” to believe that he would fail to surrender if granted bail.

“Nirav Deepak Modi, 48, was arrested on behalf of the Indian authorities on Tuesday in Holborn,” the Metropolitan Police said.

His arrest came days after a London court issued an arrest warrant against him in response to a request by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his extradition in a money laundering case.

Modi was produced before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court Wednesday, where he contested his extradition to India.

District Judge Marie Mallon, presiding over the hearing, said that she was not inclined to accept Modi’s bail plea due the “high value amount” attached to the allegations against him and that he would have “every incentive” to evade surrendering before the court.

“There are substantial grounds to believe that you would fail to surrender before the court if bail were

to be granted,” the judge said and remanded Modi in custody till next hearing on March 29.

He is likely to be held in a separate cell in Her Majesty’s Prison Wandsworth, which is one of the largest prisons in Western Europe.

Modi, dressed in a plain white shirt and trousers, appeared in the dock where he spoke only to confirm his name and also to formally decline consent to be extradited to India.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), representing the Indian authorities in court, told the court that Modi was wanted in India for fraud and money laundering amounting to the tune of $2 billion.

Under UK domestic law, the CPS said he is liable on charges of conspiracy to fraud, which has a maximum jail term of seven years, and conspiracy to conceal, which could result in anywhere between seven, ten and life term in jail.

“We do object to bail because there are substantial grounds to believe the requested person (Modi) would fail to surrender,” said Barrister Jonathan Swain, appearing for the CPS and on behalf of the Indian government.

Modi’s legal team was headed by Barrister George Hepburne-Scott and his solicitor, Anand Doobay, is the same legal expert hired by former Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya in his extradition proceedings against India in the UK courts.

Modi’s team made their case for bail, offering 500,000 pounds as security and an offer to adhere to “stringent” conditions. “He strongly contests all the allegations and is prepared with comprehensive arguments to support his case…His legal team has had months contact with the extradition squad and expressed his willingness to cooperate,” Hepburne-Scott said.

It emerged in court that Modi was arrested from a Metro Bank branch in London by uniformed officers Tuesday, when he went there to open a new bank account.

A bank clerk alerted Scotland Yard as a result of the “high publicity” surrounding the case and police officers arrived to execute the arrest. This overrode a previous arrangement made between Scotland Yard’s extradition unit and Modi’s lawyers for him to surrender “by appointment” at a central London police station on Monday, something his legal team blamed on the “nature of publicity” surrounding the case.

The location of the arrest indicates that Modi, wanted in India in connection with the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam case, was arrested from where he is believed to have been living in a plush apartment in Centre Point in the West End. It also emerged in court that Modi was in possession of three passports, all since revoked by India.

In New Delhi, ED sources said they expect a “faster” process of extradition in Modi’s case, as compared to Mallya, as this is an instance of “clear defraud” of bank loan money. They said the ED and the CBI have already sent in “good amount of evidence-based documents” for the courts in UK to peruse.

Unlike Mallya, who was granted immediate bail on his arrest on an extradition warrant in April 2017 on fraud and money laundering charges, Modi’s case will now take a slightly different course as he remains in custody while court proceedings take place.

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had certified India’s extradition request for Modi earlier this month, triggering the legal process in the courts, which led to the issuance of a warrant last week.