LONDON: Billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, accused of defrauding Punjab National Bank of more than $1 billion, has lodged an appeal in the high court in London against extradition to India.
On April 16, 2021, UK home secretary Priti Patel had ordered the extradition to India of the 50-year-old diamantaire who has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in London since his arrest in London on March 19, 2019.
India wants to extradite Nirav to prosecute him for defrauding PNB of Rs 6,498 crore plus interest, of laundering the proceeds of that fraud, and for interfering with the CBI investigation into the fraud by causing the disappearance of evidence and intimidating witnesses, including threatening to kill one. Nirav denies all the charges.
District judge Sam Goozée had on February 25 sent Nirav’s case to Patel to make a decision on whether to order extradition, saying he was satisfied there was a “prima facie” case, meaning there is evidence sufficient to make a case requiring an answer. He also found it would not be unjust or oppressive to extradite Nirav despite his poor mental health in prison and found his extradition would be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The administrative court of the high court told TOI on Friday that Nirav’s appeal application was received on April 28. He wishes to appeal both Goozeé and Patel’s decisions. In the first instance, a single judge will make a decision on the papers as to whether to grant permission for an appeal hearing. This could take several months. If the judge refuses permission to appeal, Nirav can then seek an oral hearing to argue why he should be given permission. If the judge decides to give permission, the judge will decide on which grounds he is granted permission and the appeal hearing with one to three judges will follow several months later. If he fails to get permission, he cannot approach the Supreme Court and his only option is the European Court of Human Rights. Otherwise he will be extradited within 28 days of permission to appeal being refused.
Extradition barrister Ben Keith said “The appeal court may well look at the Covid crisis in India when deciding whether to give permission as conditions in Indian jails are not good and the courts are barely functioning. So it is very uncertain what conditions he would go back to.” He also said that Nirav could now try for bail again. “It’s going to be more difficult now that extradition has been ordered, though,” he said.