The Home Department of the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) has cleared the extradition of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, British officials said today. He is wanted in a Rs 13,000 crore-plus bank fraud case.
Nirav Modi had allegedly perpetrated the fraud in the Punjab National Bank, helped by the connivance of certain officials of the bank and his accomplice, uncle Mehul Choksi.
Priti Patel, the UK home secretary, has approved Nirav Modi’s extradition. However, he has the option to challenge the order in the high court. Unless there is an appeal, Nirav Modi has to be extradited within 28 days of the secretary of state’s order of extradition.
After almost a two-year-long legal battle, in February this year, a UK court had ordered his extradition in connection with the aforementioned Punjab National Bank loan fraud case. The findings of the court were sent to the UK Home Department, which cleared the extradition.
The Westminster Magistrates’ Court had accepted the evidence prima facie against Nirav Modi for money laundering, saying: “Many of these are a matter for trial in India. I am satisfied again that there is evidence that he could be convicted.”
Legal experts say that all criminal cases start at the magistrates’ court, but the more serious matters are committed to the Crown Court. Appeals from the Crown Court go to the high court and potentially to the Court of Appeal or even the Supreme Court.
According to the UK Supreme Court’s website, not all orders made by lower courts can be appealed against. “In most cases, to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court, you must first apply to the court which handed down the judgment to ask for permission to appeal,” it said.
Fugitive diamond trader Nirav Modi was arrested on an extradition warrant on 19 March 2019, on charges of money laundering, conspiring to destroy evidence and intimidating witnesses. The charges against Modi centres around his firms Diamonds R Us, Stellar Diamonds and Solar Exports for making fraudulent use of a credit facility offered by the PNB, known as ‘letters of undertaking’ (LoUs).
Nirav Modi is facing probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a large-scale fraud upon PNB through fraudulently obtaining LoUs or loan agreements. He is also being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a case relating to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.
Nirav Modi faces two additional charges of “causing disappearance of evidence” and “intimidating witnesses” or “criminal intimidation to cause death”, which were added to the CBI case. The ED has attached several assets of Nirav Modi running into crores of rupees in connection with the case.