Tuesday, October 20, 2020

PNB Scam Case: Fugitive Nirav Modi to appear before UK court on January 30

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Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who is fighting extradition to India on charges over the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case, was further remanded in custody at a hearing on Thursday and asked to appear on January 30.

Modi appeared for his regular 28-day “call-over” appearance from London’s Wandsworth prison at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. His extradition trial is scheduled for May 11 and is expected to last over five days.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram who was the judge on Thursday asked if there are any other issues to be discussed now. Modi, wearing black, light grey and white sweatshirt and grey bottom, said no.

The 48-year-old had moved yet another bail application last November with an “unprecedented” house arrest guarantee, akin to those imposed on terrorist suspects, as well as citing mental health issues from being behind bars at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest in March.

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But the bail plea was turned down by Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot over continued fears of witness intimidation and failure to surrender before the court for his extradition trial in May 2020.

“The past is a prediction of what might happen in the future,” Judge Arbuthnot had said at the time.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian government in the extradition proceedings, said there is no further prospect of an appeal for bail in a higher court as the UK High Court has already turned down Modi’s plea earlier this year.

You only get to go once and can’t keep appealing over and over, a CPS spokesperson had said.

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Meanwhile, Modi must appear for “call-over” hearings at Westminster Magistrates’ Court until the case management hearings for his extradition trial kick in over the coming weeks.

The diamond merchant denies the charges of fraud and money laundering and his defence team, led by barrister Hugo Keith, has claimed that the Indian government has wrongly “blackened” Modi’s name as a “world-class schemer”.

Modi has been behind bars at Wandsworth, one of England’s most overcrowded prisons, since his arrest on March 19 on an extradition warrant executed by the Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government.

During subsequent hearings, the UK court has been told that Modi was the “principal beneficiary” of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.

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