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Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi denied bail again by London Court

The court’s order came after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told the court that Nirav Modi should not be granted bail because he posed a significant flight risk and had even issued death threats to witnesses related to his fraud and money laundering case.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2019 12:33 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Nirav Modi,London Court,Nirav Modi bail
This was the fugitive diamantaire’s second bail application hearing since his arrest. (Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint)

The Westminster Magistrates Court on Friday denied bail to fugitive Indian diamantaire Nirav Modi for the second time after the prosecution raised the prospect of him fleeing the UK, influencing witnesses and destroying evidence in the high-profile case.

Toby Cadman, lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service, acting on behalf of India, made several revelations about Modi while urging chief judge Emma Arbuthnot to deny him bail. He was first denied bail after his arrest on March 19.

Modi was returned to the Wandsworth jail, where he will remain until the next hearing on April 26.

The revelations included Modi applying for a citizenship-by-investment scheme in Vanuatu by seeking to invest $200,000 in 2017, which was rejected; Modi living in London since January 2018 in a central London flat on rent, and Modi allegedly threatening to kill witness Ashish Lad.

Watch: Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi again denied bail plea by UK Court

India has informed the court that Modi will be lodged in the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, if extradited.

It also highlighted the high value of fraud involved, up to $2 billion through 144 letters of understanding from the Mumbai branch of the Punjab National Bank.

The judge set April 26 as the next date of hearing in the extradition case, when Modi will appear by video-link from the Wandsworth jail. He was produced in court on Friday and sat impassively, following the proceedings, dressed in a white shirt and dark trousers, flanked by a policeman.

Arbuthnot, who heard and ruled in the extradition case of businessman Vijay Mallya, began the proceedings by asking the lawyers if they had a sense of déjà vu. Last month, UK home secretary Sajid Javid signed an order to extradite Mallya, wanted in India to face charges of financial irregularities running into thousands of crores of rupees. The beleaguered liquor tycoon has filed an appeal against the decision.

Arbuthnot and Modi’s lawyer regretted the quality of indexing and numbering of the paperwork on the case provided by India.

The judge also set May 30 as the later date of hearing when the prosecution will be expected to produce more documents from the Central Bureau of Investigation. Officials from the CBI and Enforcement Directorate attended the hearing.

Calling Modi “a man of significant wealth,” possessing a business dealing with diamonds, gold and pearls of “substantial value”, Cadman said given his extensive travels and weak ties to the UK, there would be an “overwhelming desire to flee”.

According to the prosecution, Modi had not cooperated with authorities “in any way”. Now that extradition proceedings had begun, Cadman said there was a “greater” possibility of him fleeing the court’s jurisdiction. He assured the court that the necessary paperwork will be in order by the next hearing.

Clare Montgomery, who represented Mallya and is now acting on Modi’s behalf, refuted the prosecution’s allegations, and denied that there was any flight risk if granted bail. He had already agreed to surrender, she told the court, adding that he was a law-abiding person.

“His case in India has acquired notoriety that is not justified,” Montgomery said, adding that it had become a subject of “massive national political debate” even though it was “improbable” that he was behind a “sophisticated fraud”, as alleged by India.

First Published: Mar 29, 2019 20:37 IST