The Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday concluded the hearing of diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s petition for bail in the extradition case against him, PTI reported. The judge said the ruling, which is a matter of “some importance” would be delivered on Wednesday.
Modi was arrested in London on March 19 for allegedly duping India’s Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 13,000 crore. Modi’s arrest had come days after an arrest warrant was issued by authorities in London. He has been lodged at the Wandsworth prison in London since his third attempt at seeking bail was rejected during a hearing earlier this month at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. On May 31, the court extended his custody till June 27.
On Tuesday, Modi’s advocate Clare Montgomery reiterated many of the arguments that were put forward during previous bail attempts in the Westminister Magistrates’ Court. “Modi is not [Wikileaks co-founder] Julian Assange who sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy, but just an ordinary Indian jeweller,” she told the court. “There is no evidence to show that he would do the prohibitive things listed [such as interfere with witnesses].”
The defence counsel said Modi was open to the “ostensibly harsh” condition of staying within curfew at his luxurious apartment in central London. She claimed the businessman had moved to the United Kingdom to raise capital “to explore where in the world he needed to be immigration wise”, ANI reported. “If he is given bail, he is willing to be tagged through an electronic device, have a phone that can be tracked,” Montgomery added.
The businessman’s troubled state of mind during his stay at the Wandsworth prison was also mentioned in the court. “The circumstances he has had to endure at Wandsworth have been personally difficult and the confidential exhibits reflect the experience that has marked him deeply,” Montgomery said. She added that Modi was not a cold-blooded criminal like the Indian government makes him out to be but “a jewellery designer from a long line of diamond dealers, and regarded as being honest, careful, and reliable”.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, arguing on behalf of the Indian government, said Modi should not be granted bail at this stage as he poses a significant flight risk and has the funds to flee to another country where India does not have an extradition treaty. “The government of India has strong, friendly bilateral relations with the UK, including an extradition treaty, and this case involves widespread allegations which have been submitted in good faith by Indian authorities,” said prosecutor Nicholas Hearn.
The prosecutor also pointed out that the amount of bail bond offered by Modi was continuously rising, indicating that he possibly has money to fund his escape. “The way he has carried out frauds, he knew this day was coming,” Hearn said. “He [Modi] has been making offers of cash securities to get bail, which started from £500,000 [Rs 4.41 crore] and has now gone up to £2 million [Rs 17.65 crore].”
The prosecutor said that though Modi’s legal team tried to present the case as a commercial matter, the investigations carried out by Indian agencies prove that it is a serious criminal case.
Justice Ingrid Simler said such a case generally “has a presumption of bail in the absence of strong evidence”. She said she would proceed on the basis that Indian investigating agencies and judicial authorities were acting in good faith.