Nirav Modi custody extended till Sept 19

London: Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, wanted in India in connection with the Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, on Thursday appeared before a UK court via videolink and was remanded in prison till September 19.

Judge Tan Ikram of the London Westminster Court decided to extend the custody of Nirav Modi, indicating that there continues to be “substantial grounds” to believe that Modi possesses the financial means to abscond.

Ikram gave directions for the court clerk to seek confirmation of the proposed five-day extradition trial dates starting May 11, 2020.

The court had in July extended the judicial custody of Nirav Modi till August 22 in connection with the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.

The 48-year-old businessman, wanted in India, was arrested from Holborn here on March 19. Since then he has been fighting extradition proceedings.

Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation after the PNB alleged that they cheated it of Rs 13,500 crore with the involvement of some bank employees.

Modi also faces charges under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. The ED has filed a chargesheet against Choksi in a Prevention of Money Laundering Act Court in Mumbai.

Both fled India before details of the fraud emerged in January 2018.

“It should come as a relief to India as the UK courts have sided with India on this matter, declaring that the government of India has acted in good faith over a “sophisticated international conspiracy” to defraud, together with money laundering, said Sarosh Zaiwalla, of Zaiwalla & Co. LLP, an international law firm that specialises in extradition laws.

“The quality of evidence produced by India, which has been a key contention in the Vijay Mallya extradition was not brought into question, rather the judges have affirmed the allegations of destruction of evidence and witness by Modi. This brings yet another respite to India,” he said.

He said these routine “call over hearings” (video links) are yet to formally proceed to actual trial, “which has been scheduled for May 2020, meaning Modi’s extradition, if successful, could only happen closer to 2021 because either side could invoke appeal process.”