You are here: Home » Current Affairs » News » National
Business Standard

PNB scam: Nirav Modi's extradition case in UK adjourned till September 7

From the legal documents submitted, prison conditions in India will once again play a major part in this extradition case, as in the past, when the hearing resumes in September

Topics
PNB Scam | Punjab national bank Nirav Modi | UK

BS Web Team & PTI  |  London 

Nirav Modi
Modi has been following the court proceedings via videolink from a room at Wandsworth Prison, where he has been lodged since his arrest in March last year

The court hearing the case of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to an estimated $2 billion, on Thursday adjourned the trial to be resumed from September 7.

District Judge Samuel Goozee, presiding over the trial at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, set June 11 as the date for the 49-year-old diamond merchant to be produced via videolink from Wandsworth Prison in south-west London for his 28-day call-over remand hearing, with the case itself set for a case management hearing at the end of August.

“I hope Mr Modi by the time we get to September, the current restrictions on movement from prisons have been eased and you can be in court in person to follow the proceedings,” the judge told Modi, at the end of a four-day partial hearing of the case.

“The situation is being kept under constant review as we react to the current pandemic,” he said, in reference to the partly remote setting in which the case was heard this week due to the coronavirus lockdown.

ALSO READ: Pune-based engineering firm gets Labour Dept notice over pay cuts up to 50%

The first part of the case focused on establishing a prima facie case against Modi but the schedule had to be re-timetabled as the government of India submitted a further set of documents as “corroboratory evidence” on Wednesday. The judge allowed the additional evidence to be introduced but agreed that Modi's defence team would require enough time to “digest” them.

Therefore, a hearing already planned to deal with a second request, made by the Indian authorities and certified by Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier this year on two additional charges of "causing the disappearance of evidence" and intimidating witnesses or “criminal intimidation to cause death”, has been effectively extended to conclude the prima facie case arguments.

The judge has already indicated that the two requests are “inextricably linked” and therefore he would be handing down an overall judgment at the conclusion of the second hearing, expected to be held between September 7 and 11.

On Thursday, Modi's barrister Clare Montgomery deposed a gems expert, Dr Richard Taylor, as a defence witness who spoke at length about the nitty-gritties of the diamond trade and how the Modi brand was well-known around the world.

“The industry relies on sending out high-value product to companies and to do that they require trust and confidence,” he said, in an attempt to establish Modi's credibility in the business.

ALSO READ: Sebi relaxes 25% minimum public shareholding norms, deadline postponed

“India is the largest and most important centre of diamond cutting… it was a very significant trend that he [Modi] was part of,” he added.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, cross-examined him to try and establish that the process of “dismantling” diamonds or pearls from jewellery as part of an “everlasting cycle” with no outward sales was not a commercially sound practice.

His witness statement follows that of Thierry Fritsch, a high-end French jewellery expert, and Retired Justice Abhay Thipsay from India during the course of the week.

“Unless a person is deceived there can be no cheating under Indian law," said Thipsay, in his witness statement to claim legal flaws in the Indian government's case, which was challenged by CPS barrister Helen Malcolm.

From the legal documents submitted, prison conditions in India will once again play a major part in this case, as in the past, when the hearing resumes in September. Modi's barrister indicated in court on Thursday that she would be seeking a prison visit to Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai.

ALSO READ: Covid-19 lockdown makes Vivo struggle, firm to slash salaries by 50% in May

“Frankly, the video submitted of Barrack 12 in the Vijay Mallya extradition case] is sub-optimal,” said Montgomery, who was also the barrister in Mallya's case.

Modi has been following the court proceedings via videolink from a room at Wandsworth Prison, where he has been lodged since his arrest in March last year. Dressed in formals, he can be seen listening carefully and occasionally making notes as he refers to papers on a desk. He has made repeated attempts at bail over the past year, each of which were turned down as he is deemed a flight risk. The jeweller was arrested on March 19, 2019, on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard.

The charges against the diamond merchant centre around his firms Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds making fraudulent use of a credit facility offered by the Punjab Bank (PNB), known as “letters of undertaking” (LoUs).

According to the government of India's case, a number of PNB staff conspired with Modi to ensure LoUs were issued to these companies without ensuring they were subject to the required credit check, without recording the issuance of the LoUs and without charging the required commission upon the transactions. This resulted in a fraud amounting to nearly $2 billion.


First Published: Thu, May 14 2020. 22:53 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU