London: Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, who is fighting extradition to India on charges of over nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case, will appear via videolink from his London jail for a regular remand hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Thursday.
The 48-year-old remains in judicial custody pending a full extradition trial scheduled for May 2020 and must appear for “call-over” hearings until the case management for the trial kicks in from February next year.
At the last call-over hearing at the magistrates' court in London in September, Judge David Robinson told Modi that there was nothing “substantial” to deal with and that the court was working towards a five-day extradition trial hearing for May 11-15, 2020.
A team of officials from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were present in court for the brief hearing, required under UK law every 28 days pending an extradition trial. Modi has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in south-west London, one of England's most overcrowded jails, since his arrest in March on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government, being represented by the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in court.
Since his arrest, his legal team, led by solicitor Anand Doobay and barrister Clare Montgomery, have made four bail applications, which have been rejected each time due to Modi being deemed a flight risk. In her judgment handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on his last bail appeal in June, Justice Ingrid Simler had concluded there were “substantial grounds” to believe that Modi would fail to surrender as he does possess the means to “abscond”.
Reiterating similar concerns as those previously raised by Westminster Magistrates' Court during earlier bail attempts, Judge Simler ruled that after considering all the material “carefully”, she had found strong evidence to suggest there had been interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the case and concluded it can still occur.
The High Court judge stressed that while it was not for her to take a "definitive view" on the evidence, she had proceeded on the basis that the government of India has acted in good faith in what is “undoubtedly” a serious case and a “sophisticated international conspiracy” to defraud, together with money laundering. Modi was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers on an extradition warrant on March 19 and has been in prison since.
During subsequent hearings, Westminster Magistrates' Court was told that Modi was the "principal beneficiary" of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.