Nirav Modi, the main accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud case has been denied bail for a second time at Westminster Magistrates Court, despite offering to wear an electronic tag and up to £1 million as security as the prosecution asserted he had “threatened to kill” a witness, and had destroyed evidence in an effort to curtail his case.
While acknowledging “inconsistencies” in the evidence of those making such allegations pointed to by the defence (who had insisted there was no flight risk and that Mr. Modi had treated the UK as a “haven” where his case would be “fairly considered’), Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said she was denying bail because of the risk he would fail to surrender to the court and his “lack of community ties.” She noted the substantial amount involved in the fraud charges in India, as well as indications that he could seek to move elsewhere – such as his attempt to gain investment-based citizenship on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu.
To appear on April 26
He is set to appear before the judge by video link on April 26 for a brief hearing, while the prosecution has been set a deadline of May 24 to serve papers. The judge – who at the start of proceedings concurred with the defence’s criticism of the state of the papers – called for “clean documents” to be submitted, with a “proper index” and “proper” pagination.
Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot and Clare Montgomery, the defence barrister, had expressed their dismay at the state of the paperwork index and numbering submitted to them by India – with Ms. Arbuthnot telling the court, in jest, that they had “almost” made her cry.
The interference and threat allegations were one of several arguments presented to the court by barrister Toby Cadman, acting on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service (who are representing India).
He told the court there was a “substantial risk” that Mr. Modi would “flee, interfere with witnesses, interfere with evidence in order,” to prevent the case against him proceeding.
He rejected defence suggestions that Mr. Modi had not travelled anywhere abroad since the allegations had surfaced. “In fact, he travelled to New York in February of this year,” Mr. Cadman said.
He also pointed to the resources at Mr. Modi’s disposal demonstrated by factors such as his application for an investment programme as a route to citizenship in the Pacific island of Vanuatu (which was declined by authorities there). “Due to the nature of the business he had at his disposal diamonds gold and pearls,” the court also heard.
Mr. Cadman said that while Mr. Modi had been in talks to hand himself in voluntarily, he had “not cooperated with authorities in any way.”