Fugitive merchant Nirav Modi's trial in UK will start in September

PTI  | Deccan Chronicle

World, Europe

Modi's judicial remand is further extended to August 27 and next month's trial will deal with a second extradition request made by India

Nirav Modi had been following the court proceedings from a room at Wandsworth Prison and could be seen taking notes during the course of the trial. (PTI)

London: Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, fighting extradition to India, was on Thursday further remanded in custody until August 27 after he appeared via videolink at a regular remand hearing before a UK court on charges over the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case.

The 49-year-old jeweller, who has been lodged at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest in March last year, appeared via videolink before District Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London for a regular 28-day “call-over” hearing.

He was told the next hearing in the case will be a case management hearing ahead of a trial set for five days from September 7.

"You will appear via videolink again. Your lawyers may be present in court,” said Judge Baraitser, in reference to the part remote setting in operation across UK courts since the coronavirus lockdown

In May, District Judge Samuel Goozee presided over the first part of Modi's extradition trial, held in a partial remote settings, with the second part scheduled between September 7 and 11.

Besides, completing the arguments on establishing a prima facie case against Modi, the trial next month will deal with a second extradition request, made by the Indian authorities and certified by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier this year. The second request brings two additional charges against Modi —of "causing the disappearance of evidence" and intimidating witnesses or “criminal intimidation to cause death”.

Judge Goozee 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 trial in September.

"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 had told Modi, at the end of a four-day partial hearing of the case on May 14.

Modi had been following the court proceedings from a room at Wandsworth Prison and could be seen taking notes during the course of the trial.

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 National Bank (PNB), known as “letters of undertaking” (LoUs).

Modi's team has sought to counter allegations of fraud by deposing witnesses to establish the volatility of the gems trade and that the LoUs were standard practice.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, sought to establish that a number of PNB staff conspired with Modi to ensure LoUs were issued to his 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 USD 2 billion.