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Win for UK-India cooperation as court clears jeweller Nirav Modi’s extradition

Win for UK-India cooperation as court clears jeweller Nirav Modi’s extradition
Courtesy: Mint / Contributor | Hindustan Times via Getty Images

“I am also required to consider the length and strength of relations between India and this country [UK],” notes a judgment handed down at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.

It marks a big win for UK-India cooperation in the field of tackling economic offences, as India’s extradition request for a jeweller wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering was upheld by the UK court this week. Nirav Modi, the founder of the eponymous jewellery brand adorned by high-profile celebrities across the red carpet worldwide, was found to have a case to answer before the Indian courts in relation to an estimated $2 billion fraud upon India’s state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) before he arrived in London a few years ago.

“I am satisfied that there is evidence upon which NDM [Nirav Deepak Modi] could be convicted in relation [to] the conspiracy to defraud the PNB. A prima facie case is established,” District Judge Sam Goozee ruled, marking the conclusion to a nearly two-year-old legal battle dating back to March 2019 when the 49-year-old diamond merchant was arrested on an extradition warrant by Scotland Yard.

The defence team for the jeweller had argued against extradition on several grounds, including his mental health condition. However, the judge found that while Nirav Modi’s mental health had deteriorated due to the lengthy incarceration in a London prison, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, his risk of suicide does not meet the high threshold to satisfy him that his mental state is such that it would be "unjust or oppressive" to extradite him.

Under the UK Extradition Act 2003, the judge will now send his findings to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel as it is the Cabinet minister who is authorised to order an extradition under the India-UK Extradition Treaty and has two months within which to make that decision.

The Home Secretary’s order rarely goes against the court’s conclusions, as she has to consider only some very narrow bars to extradition which are unlikely to apply in this case.

There is also provision for Nirav Modi’s lawyers to apply for permission to appeal against extradition in the High Court in London but meanwhile the accused will remain on judicial remand at HMP Wandsworth prison in south-west London.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that it will be liaising with the UK authorities for the next procedural steps in the matter to seek the early extradition of the accused to stand trial in India.

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