Nirav Modi, wanted in India on fraud and money laundering charges amounting to nearly USD 2 billion, on Friday applied for bail in the UK High Court, a day after a British court extended his remand till June 27. The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian government in the extradition case, said that the hearing of Modi’s bail plea will take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on June 11.
The 48-year-old, wanted by India to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to nearly USD 2 billion in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) case, has been denied bail at three previous attempts at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, as the judge ruled there was “substantial risk” that he would fail to surrender and deemed the bail security offered as insufficient. “This is a large fraud and the doubling of security to 2 million pounds is not sufficient to cover a combination of concerns that he would fail to surrender,” Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot ruled at the last bail hearing on May 8.
The has previously indicated Modi’s intention to appeal against the lower court’s order rejecting his bail plea and after the third application earlier this month, he had the automatic right to file an application in the higher court. “Mr Modi can appeal to the High Court as of right. He does not need leave to appeal,” a spokesperson said. “He can apply at any time. Usually the person wishes to apply quickly so they can be released quickly if successful. There are many reasons they may wish to wait such as availability of counsel or if they think they can obtain new evidence to assist their application,” the spokesperson said.
Modi’s legal team has described their client’s experience at Wandsworth prison in south-west London as “damaging” and had offered stringent electronic tag and other conditions akin to house arrest at his posh Centrepoint apartment in the West End of London in an attempt to persuade the judge. “His experience in custody has been vivid and damaging… he is willing to abide by any bail conditions imposed by the court because Wandsworth is unliveable and makes the effective preparation of his case virtually impossible,” his barrister Clare Montgomery had told Judge Arbuthnot.
At the most recent case management hearing in the case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this week, the issue of bail was not discussed and Modi was further remanded in judicial custody until June 27, when he is scheduled to appear via videolink. A UK High Court verdict on his bail appeal could now impact that next hearing date.
At the hearing on Thursday, Judge Arbuthnot directed the Indian government to confirm which prison Modi is to be held in if he were to be extradited to India, setting a 14-day deadline for a confirmation of the prison plans in India. Arbuthnot, who ordered the extradition of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya in December 2018, had sought a video of the exact cell at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai in which the former Kingfisher Airlines boss is to be held. She therefore indicated that if Modi was to be lodged within the same premises, the court would most likely not have any objections.
Modi’s barrister Clare Montgomery agreed that unless it was the same cell, she would be seeking a court-appointed independent prison visit to ensure that any holding cell in India met with human rights guidelines. No further details or timelines were set for the extradition trial at the first case management hearing on Thursday as Montgomery told the court that the defence team was yet to receive the opening position statement on the case to start building on its arguments.
The has six weeks’ time to present an opening position statement laying out the prima facie case against Modi, with the next case management hearing set for July 29 – when a timeline for extradition trial is expected to be laid out. Judge Arbuthnot had also welcomed the improvement in the paperwork submitted by the Indian authorities. She has previously been extremely critical of the paperwork submitted for previous extradition cases, including that of Mallya.
She directed the to make the index clearer in the opening statement, which is now due to be submitted by the Indian side by July 11. A team from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were present during the hearing in court. Modi was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers on an extradition warrant from a Metro Bank branch in central London as he attempted to open a new bank account 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.