The U.K.’s Home Department has approved the extradition of diamond merchant Nirav Modi to India in connection with the ₹13,758-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud , about two months after the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London ruled that a prima facie case was made out against him.
Of Friday’s decision, a U.K. Home Office spokesperson said, “On February 25, the District Judge gave judgement in the extradition case of Nirav Modi. The extradition order was signed on April 15.”
“The Secretary of State for the U.K.’s Home Department, Priti Patel, has cleared Mr. Nirav Modi’s extradition,” said a CBI official on Friday. The accused now has the legal recourse of approaching the U.K. High Court within 14 days to seek permission for moving an appeal against the Secretary of State’s decision in the High Court.
Also read: PNB-Nirav Modi case | Chronology of events
“Unless there is an appeal, a requested person must be extradited within 28 days of the Secretary of State’s decision to order extradition (subject to any appeal),” according to the U.K. government’s website.
In its order dated February 25, the Westminster Magistrates Court had found sufficient grounds warranting Mr. Nirav Modi’s trial in India . It also took on record the evidence furnished by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), alleging that he had conspired to destroy the proof against him, and intimidate witnesses.
The agencies alleged that he kept his employees, some of whom were dummy directors in the firms floated by him, in illegal confinement in Cairo, and disposed of their mobile phones in Dubai. A Dubai-based server, in which information on the electronic communications between the accused persons was stored, was also destroyed.
The U.K. court did not find any merit in Mr. Nirav Modi’s submissions on the state of his mental health and the condition of barrack 12 in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, where he would be kept after extradition. Based on a video inspection, the court observed that the prison was spacious enough and had sufficient security. The court was also convinced that he would get fair trial in India.
The businessman had fled the country on January 1, 2018. On India’s request, he was arrested in London on March 19, 2019, and he has since then been in judicial custody there.
The CBI had registered the first case against the diamond merchant and others on January 31, 2018, alleging that they cheated the PNB of about ₹6,498 crore by getting Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) issued fraudulently to overseas banks for securing buyer’s credit in favour of his three firms. Months later, the agency filed a charge-sheet against him and 24 others. Subsequently, in August 2018, the first extradition request was sent to the U.K. via diplomatic channels.
The second charge-sheet was submitted against 30 accused, including some companies, on December 20, 2019, regarding 150 outstanding LoUs that caused a loss of about ₹6,805 crore to the bank. Based on the CBI case, the ED also carried out a money laundering probe and attached assets worth hundreds of crores in India and abroad.
As it turned out, Mr. Nirav Modi had allegedly established dummy companies in Dubai and Hong Kong to project them as the exporters of pearls to his three firms and importers of pearl-studded jewellery from them.
In the PNB case, Mr. Nirav Modi’s uncle Mehul Choksi is also facing extradition proceedings in Antigua. He had taken Antiguan citizenship before he flew out of India in January 2018.