Nirav Modi’s depression, suicide risk raised in court to block extradition to India
Diamantaire Nirav Modi’s defence team on Thursday alleged that the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai did not have arrangements or plans to deal with his mental health issues, including risk of suicide, and urged the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to dismiss India’s extradition request.
Modi’s lawyer, Claire Montgomery, also alleged that Modi would not receive a fair trial if extradited, and cited reported statements by Indian ministers and two former judges who deposed in the case, Abhay Thipsay and Markandey Katju.
Mental health and risk of suicide were the main grounds on which the court earlier this week blocked the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where he is wanted to face charges of leaking classified information.
The first day or the two-day hearing on concluding arguments in the Modi case was focused on issues of mental health and fair trial. The issue whether a prima facie case exists against him will be the focus on Friday, with a judgment expected in weeks.
Helen Malcolm of the Crown Prosecution Service representing India said the court could ask the government of India for a fresh assurance on facilities for mental health treatment in Barrack number 12 of the Mumbai jail.
According to Montgomery, the court was not obliged to ask for such an assurance after a certain time limit.
Malcolm did not see equivalence between the Assange and Modi cases, as claimed by Montgomery, since the former reportedly suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and depression.
She also denied that there was any plan to keep Modi in solitary confinement in the Arthur Road jail, as claimed.
Besides medical facilities available in the jail, Malcolm reminded the court that India had submitted details of at least three hospitals nearby where he could be treated. He would also be able to seek private treatment of his choice, she added.
According to Malcolm, there is no difference between Modi’s case and that of businessman Vijay Mallya; the court had recommended Mallya’s extradition in December 2018.
She also refuted claims that India’s judiciary is not independent or that Modi would not receive a fair trial if extradited.
Montgomery said the government of India had submitted an “utterly worthless” assurance that Modi would have access to necessary medical facilities. Judge Samuel Goozee heard both sides and concluded against that the government of India had “ample opportunities” to respond to concerns previously raised by a medical doctor who had examined Modi.
Modi, 49, who is lodged in the Wandsworth prison in west London and attended the hearing remotely, wearing a jacket and sporting a beard, is the subject of two extradition requests; one processed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the other by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Charges against Modi involve PNB’s Mumbai branch that extended his companies loans worth over Rs 11,300 crore. The CBI case relates to large-scale fraud upon PNB, through the fraudulent obtaining of Letters of Understanding (LOUs/loan agreements) - the ED case relates to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.
The second extradition request was made on the basis of two additional offences as part of the CBI case, relating to allegations that Modi interfered with the CBI investigation by “causing disappearance of evidence” and intimidating witnesses (”criminal intimidation to cause death”).