PNB Scam, Nirav Modi, an accused diamond trader, lost his appeal on Wednesday November 9, when the High Court of London ordered his extradition to India.
Nirav Modi: Who is he?
Nirav Modi, who created Firestar Diamond and is of Gujarati origin, also runs a successful retail operation in a number of prestigious global locations, including Delhi, Mumbai, New York, London, Hong Kong, and Macau. Donald Trump was there for the opening of his first store in New York City’s Madison Avenue in 2015. The expansion of Nirav Modi’s retail market presence made him one of the youngest Indians on the 2017 Forbes Billionaires List.
The rich businessman was born in India, but grew up in Belgium, the centre of the world’s commerce in precious diamonds. Despite attending Wharton Business School, he dropped out and relocated to India to work under his uncle in the diamond profession. Years later, he launched the Nirav Modi jewellery line, which is well-known for having wealthy customers on the global market.
What is his accusation?
Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are accused of using false Letters of Undertaking (LoU) from the Punjab National Bank to route transactions totaling roughly Rs 13,600 crore (PNB). In the first week of January 2018, some weeks before the scandal was made public, they both departed India.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had said that Nirav Modi had used 15 “dummy businesses” with addresses in the UAE and Hong Kong to shift more than 4,000 crore rupees of the 6,519 crore rupees in fraudulent LoUs that PNB had granted to his companies. The FBI has provided transcripts of Nirav Modi’s talks to the UK court, which they claim demonstrate how he allegedly tampered with the evidence and threatened witnesses while under investigation in India.
In the CBI case, two new accusations of “causing the loss of evidence” and “criminal intimidation to cause death” against him were also added.
Extradition of Modi
Modi was detained in March 2019, and his extradition was authorised by the court and the UK government in February and April of the following year. He has still not visited India, though. He has been a prisoner at Wandsworth Prison in southwest London ever since his arrest.
Why is that?
Modi appealed the decision to the High Court in London in 2021 on the basis of his mental health. His legal team contended that his mental state had gotten worse and that the courts should consider this while rendering their decision, especially given the conditions in Covid-19 prison.
The High Court granted Modi leave to appeal on two grounds: Section 91 of the Extradition Act of 2003, which also addresses mental health, and Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which allows for the hearing of arguments regarding whether it would be “unjust or oppressive” to extradite Modi given his mental state.
When the Indian government’s guarantees that Nirav Modi will receive sufficient medical care at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai were being contested by Nirav Modi, the court highlighted that India is a “friendly foreign power” and that the UK must uphold its extradition treaty duties by not doing so.
In its judgement, what did the UK High Court say?
The Westminster Magistrates’ Court judgement from last year favouring extradition made by District Judge Sam Goozee was deemed “sound” by Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay, who presided over the appeal hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier this year.
The decision stated, “We are far from satisfied that Mr. Modi’s mental condition and the risk of suicide are such that it would be either unjust or oppressive to extradite him. Pulling these various strands together and weighing them in the balance so as to reach an overall evaluative judgement on the question raised by Section 91.
The judges stated, according to PTI, “It may be that the main benefit of the appeal has been to obtain the extensive further assurances [from the Indian government] that we have identified in the course of this judgement, which render the position clear to Mr. Modi’s advantage and the District Judge’s decision are supportable.”
What is next for Nirav Modi?
PTI claims that within 14 days of a High Court decision, Modi may file a petition with the Supreme Court on a legal issue of public significance to challenge the High Court’s ruling. The High Court must certify that the matter contains a legal issue of general public concern before an appeal can be taken to the Supreme Court, the court noted.
Modi may request a so-called Rule 39 injunction from the European Court of Human Rights if all legal options in UK courts have been exhausted (ECHR). Regarding potential appeals of the High Court ruling, Modi’s legal team has not yet made any comments.
What is the UK-India extradition agreement?
Due to India’s designation as a Part 2 nation under the Extradition Act of 2003, the UK Cabinet minister has the power to compel a person’s extradition only after all legal matters have been resolved in court.
What is happening in India in the meantime?
A special court authorised the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to seize 39 of Modi’s properties by October 31, 2022, in accordance with the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. In 2020, a similar order was initially enacted. The Act has mechanisms to take action against anyone who attempts to evade the legal system by leaving the country.
According to the Act, the court has the authority to designate someone as a fugitive economic offender and then order the confiscation of their assets. 22 automobiles, Rhythm House in Kala Ghoda, and items confiscated from Modi’s house in Alibaug are among the properties. The ED wanted to seize 48 properties worth a total of Rs 929 crore.