After several delays and almost two years after he was arrested, a judge in a British court ruled that fallen diamantaire Nirav Modi could be extradited to India and that his defence on grounds of deteriorating mental health and poor jail conditions were not substantial barriers. Over the next two weeks, the judgment will be sent to the U.K.'s home secretary, Priti Patel, for a decision on whether Nirav Modi is to be extradited, post which appeals can be made.
Nirav Modi has been in Wandsworth Prison and has been charged by the government of India for fraud and money-laundering in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank scam. District Judge Samuel Goozee said that Nirav Modi had the right to appeal the order in the next two weeks.
Throughout the proceedings, Nirav Modi appeared by live link from Wandsworth Prison but did not give evidence at the extradition hearing. Other co-conspirators named included his brothers Neeshal and Nehal Modi, his sister Purvi Mehta, employees at PNB, and senior C-suite execs who worked with Nirav Modi and include Hemant Bhatt and Mihir Bhansali.
The judgment stated that the Indian government has assured that in the event of his extradition, Nirav Modi would be held at Barrack No. 12 at Arthur Road jail, Mumbai, and he would “have a minimum of 3 metres square of personal space not including the furniture throughout detention (pre-trial, and post-trial, if convicted)”.
The judgment went on to state that the Indian government had assured that he would be provided with a clean thick coating mat, pillow, sheet, and blanket. A metal frame/wooden bed can be provided on medical grounds. Adequate light and ventilation and storage of personal belongings would also be available.
Nirav Modi would also have “sufficient” access to clean drinking water each day and ‘adequate’ medical facilities were available 24 hours a day. He would also have access to ‘adequate’ toilet and washing facilities each day and be allowed out for exercise for more than one hour a day, and receive ‘adequate’ food.
Apart from allegedly defrauding PNB to the tune of thousands of crores, Nirav Modi and his cohort group have also been accused of threatening to kill Ashish Lad, a potential witness under the CBI investigation in the fraud, and destroying boxes of original documents connected to the fraud.
According to the judgment, Lad provides further details in his statements of July 27, 2018, and June 10, 2019, about the “round tripping transactions” used to create turnover for the Firestar Group and how transactions were communicated through a private communications system. Lad explains that in March 2018 when the CBI investigation started, Bhansali instructed all dummy directors to withdraw money from the Dubai-based accounts in which they were shown as namesake directors.
Thereafter in March 2018, Nehal Modi and Mihir Bhansali instructed them to go to Cairo and threatened them that the police would arrest them if they remained in Dubai. Flights were arranged by Nehal Modi. In the meeting with the dummy directors, Mihir Bhansali told them “there is a hostile scenario in India right now, and if we go to India, we will be arrested by the investigating agencies. He also told us that if we cooperate with them, they will provide shelter and legal help.”
Nirav Modi's defence on grounds of mental health was not seen as a reason to dismiss extradition. According to the judgment, he has a family history of suicide, and he had also reported both suicidal intentions and ideas but the doctor who examined him confirmed that the suicidal intentions are not immediate in nature and that “[Nirav] Modi's mental condition is not such that it removes his capacity to resist the impulse to commit suicide.”
In June last year, in the first order of its kind, the Enforcement Directorate received permission to confiscate Nirav Modi's assets so that banks could make good on recovering their losses. It included a ₹1,400-crore confiscation that comprised domestic property valued at ₹600 crore, ₹55 crore of cash in banks, offshore properties and cash of ₹100 crore, art worth ₹100 crore, and jewellery and valuables worth ₹490 crore.
Nirav Modi's younger sister Purvi Mehta, a Belgian national, and her husband Maiank Mehta, a British citizen, were earlier named as accused in the case. But last month, a PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court accepted their plea for turning approver (prosecution witness) in the case.