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UK Home Secretary clears Nirav Modi’s extradition



Nearly two months after a UK court allowed the Indian government’s request seeking extradition of diamond merchant Nirav Modi, the UK Home Secretary has ratified the judicial order.

Nirav is a key accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case. Nirav Modi still reserves the right to appeal against the said order before a higher Court in the UK.

The UK Magistrate, in a detailed order, had indicted Nirav Modi on all charges levelled by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which are probing the bank scandal.

From colluding with bank officials to defraud PNB and intimidating witnesses to laundering of money and indulging in illegitimate business, the UK Court had found force in the evidence produced by the Indian agencies against Nirav Modi.

Nirav Modi has been behind bars since March 2019. The extradition trial took two years to conclude. His bails were rejected seven times by UK courts.

Nirav Modi still has two appeals left in the UK’s higher courts and a plea seeking political asylum, all of which will have to be decided against him before he can be deported to India.

Allowing the extradition plea of the Indian government, the UK court held: “I am satisfied that there is evidence upon which Nirav Deepak Modi could be convicted in relation to the conspiracy to defraud the PNB. A prima facie case is established.” The Westminster Court has also recorded that there was a prima facie case of money laundering.

The court perused statements of officials of the Brady House branch of PNB, affidavits of investigating officers, documentary evidence and video and audio recordings of Nirav Modi’s brother with allegedly dummy directors of his companies to conclude his judgement.

Voluminous evidence

The judge had recorded that he had received 16 volumes of evidence and information from the Indian government and 16 bundles of expert reports and defence evidence.

“Unlike the evidence from the defence, the evidence produced by the GOI in the case, through no fault of counsel, was poorly presented and very difficult to navigate,” the 83-page order read.

Nirav Modi did not give evidence at the extradition hearing.

The UK court was provided with a video recording of a number of the allegedly dummy directors (Ashish Lad, Rushabh Jethwa, Shreedhar Mayekar, Sonu Mehta and Nilesh Mistry) taken in Cairo. This was played in court and a transcript provided. “In summary they each describe themselves as the namesake owners of the various companies. They describe the fact they were made to sign documents for their own safety and those documents state that the companies in Dubai belonged to them,” the order said.

It added, “They say on the video that this is not true, because they were all working for Nirav Modi, they are under his control, they are living in fear and that is why they signed the documents, they signed the documents to get their passports back. Their passports were taken from them to get visas. They explain that they are making the video to let everyone know the pressure in which they’ve signed the documents because they had no other choice”.

The Indian agencies had also supplied transcripts of audio recordings between Nirav Modi’s brother Nehal and a number of the “dummy” directors.

“The conversations show how Nehal Modi placed pressure on individuals to make untruthful statements, tell them what to say in statements. In a conversation between Nehal Modi and Ashish Lad, Nehal Modi is instructing Ashish Lad about how he should return to India via Calcutta to evade the authorities. He explains a lawyer will visit him and he will sign documents and make the same statements as Divyesh Ghandi. He also tells Ashish Lad he will need to go to Europe to make a statement in return for 20 lakhs,” the order observed.

The judge had observed: “I am satisfied that there is evidence upon which Nirav Modi could be convicted in relation to the conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and the standalone conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by threatening to kill Ashish Lad. A prima facie case is established.”

The Court had added, “The CBI investigation demonstrates that NDM had retained control of the Nirav Modi firms but had sought to disguise the control of the firms through the use of dummy partners recruited at his behest in order to sustain the LOU (letter of understanding) scheme.”


Courtesy: Economic Times

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