The Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Friday rejected the bail plea of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi for a second time, PTI reported. The Crown Prosecution Service, on behalf of Indian authorities, opposed the bail plea after submitting a new file with additional evidence against Modi.
The court said there were substantial grounds to believe Modi will fail to surrender, and that his attempt to try and seek citizenship of Vanuatu showed he was trying to move away from India at an important time.
The next date of hearing is April 26, when the diamond merchant will appear in court through video conferencing.
Modi was arrested in London on March 19 for allegedly duping India’s Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore. He was sent to custody at HM Prison Wandsworth till March 29 after the Westminster court had rejected his bail plea. Modi’s arrest had come days after an arrest warrant was issued by authorities in London.
“There is a real risk that he could flee, interfere with witnesses, interfere with evidence,” Tony Cadman, the lawyer representing the service told the court, according to ANI. He alleged that Modi was not cooperating with Indian agencies. When the court resumed the hearing after the lunch break, Cadman alleged that Modi called up a witness, Ashish Lad, and threatened to kill him, ANI reported.
Modi’s advocates, on the other hand, pointed to his “very visible” and “lawful” presence at his residence in the West End area, NDTV reported. They said Modi pays his local council tax and also uses a National Insurance Number, allocated to British citizens.
“Conditions that defence suggests for bail is house arrest and electronic monitoring that are more stringent than usual, including all day electronic tag monitoring and reporting to the local police station,” one of the attorneys said according to ANI. “Give him a special phone that could be accessed by authorities.”
A joint team of India’s Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation reached the court earlier on Friday.
“It’s a big file with only a few papers,” Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had said when the evidence was submitted. Arbuthnot is the same judge who had ordered the extradition of former Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya in December last year.
Modi is being represented by the same lawyer who represents fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, Anand Doobay of Boutique Law, The Times of India reported. A post on the firm’s website said, “We have substantial experience acting for clients facing money laundering investigations and prosecutions.”
Modi, who fled India in January 2018, is now living at an apartment in London’s West End, British newspaper The Telegraph had reported earlier this month. The daily had said Modi lives on half a floor of the Centre Point Tower Block in an apartment whose rent is likely to be around £17,000 per month (Rs 15.5 lakh), and which costs around Rs 73 crore. A report in The Times of India on Friday claimed that Modi owns two apartments in the same building.
On March 9, the Ministry of External Affairs said it had requested Modi’s extradition, but had not received any response from UK authorities. Both extradition requests, by the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation, are being “considered” by the UK government, ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.