Indian diamond businessman Nirav Modi, accused in the ₹13,000 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case, was denied bail here on Wednesday, despite offering the court assurances including £500,000 as security.
The hearing before district judge Marie Mallon took place a day after Modi was arrested at a bank branch in London by the Metropolitan Police.
Following a brief recess to consider matters, the judge said that she wasn’t inclined to give Modi bail because of the “high value amount” involved in the allegations against him and the “substantial grounds” for believing he would “fail to surrender” before the court if bail were granted.
During the midday hearing, Mr. Modi told the court that he did not give his consent to India’s efforts to extradite him. (As part of Britain’s extradition process, the question had to be put to him formally.)
His legal team represented by George Hepburne Scott, an extradition barrister at Church Court Chambers, pointed to a number of factors to highlight his commitment to the U.K. including the fact that his son had been at school here for the past five years, as well as the fact that he was attending “education courses” in the U.K. and was a regular taxpayer.
He was working on a salary of £20,000 a month for Diamond Holdings — a private limited company listed in Harrow — and had a National Insurance number, the details of which were presented with payslips to the court.
Mr. Hepburne Scott said Mr. Modi strongly contested the allegations against him and had prepared comprehensive arguments to support his case, pointing to political motivations involved in the case against him and human rights considerations.
They had for months now expressed their willingness to cooperate and been in touch with extradition authorities, it was also argued. They also noted he had no documents to travel on. It emerged that he had had three Indian passports, all revoked by India, as well as residency cards for the UAE, Singapore and Hong Kong.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service — making representations on behalf of India as it did with the Vijay Mallya extradition — objected to the request for bail. Highlighting the U.K. domestic laws that would apply to him, the prosecution said that he would be liable on charges of conspiracy to defraud and a conspiracy to conceal here. In India he is wanted on fraud and money laundering charges, the court was told.
In response to media queries regarding Mr. Modi’s arrest in London, the MEA’s official spokesperson said: “We welcome the fact that Nirav Modi has been arrested by the United Kingdom authorities pursuant to the arrest warrant issued by the Westminster Magistrates Court. The Government of India continues to actively follow up this matter with the authorities concerned in the UK, with a view to have Nirav Modi extradited to India at the earliest.”
Mr. Modi is now due to appear before Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate of Westminster Magistrates Court, who ordered Vijay Mallya’s extradition on March 29. The hearing will be an initial case management hearing.
Clerk alerts authorities
Wednesday’s events mark a hastening of the extradition process. Mr. Modi had been expected to surrender to police by appointment next week, but the arrest was made after a clerk at the bank recognised him and alerted authorities.