London: The UK High Court on Tuesday deferred fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi's bail plea to Wednesday afternoon (10 am UK Time or 2:30 pm IST). Modi had appeal against a lower court's order denying him bail while fighting his extradition from Britain to India in the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case.
Barrister Claire Montgomery, who represented Nirav Modi in Royal Courts of Justice, argued that granting bail means the authorities will be able to track his movements.
“He moved here to raise capital, to explore where in the world he needed to be immigration wise.... If he is given bail, he is willing to be tagged through an electronic device, have a phone that can be tracked,” said Montgomery.
“And since he has an extradition case starting, there is no way he will run away. His daughter and son will be moving here, they are starting university,” she added.
Defending Modi, Montgomery added, “The reality is that he is not the cold-blooded hardened criminal as claimed by the government of India but a jewellery designer from a long line of diamond dealers, and regarded as being honest careful and reliable,” reported news agency PTI.
Crown Prosecution Service, representing Indian Government, argued, “Allegations are of conniving and criminal acts....If Nirav Modi is given bail during extradition hearings, then that’s another thing. But he should not be given bail at this time as he faces serious charges.”
“It is no accident that he (Nirav Modi) has arrived in the UK. The way he has carried out frauds, he knew this day was coming. He has been making offers of cash securities to get bail which started from £500,000 which has now gone upto £2 million,” added the prosecution.
Reading out an email exchange between Modi and his brother, Montgomery added, “the emails clearly show that there is no evidence of any sort of witness interference. We've seen witnesses from Abu Dhabi who've replied to emails from ED.”
Modi has already 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 the first time that Modi has moved to Royal Court of Justice, the higher court.
The absconding diamantaire is accused of defrauding India's state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) via fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) had been in possession of multiple passports, since revoked by the Indian authorities to the tune of Rs 13,500 crore. Nirav has been lodged in Wandsworth prison, considered one of Britain's most notorious cell, since March 19. He was arrested on the basis of the extradition request of India and a Red Corner notice issued against him on the request of the CBI last year.
He is believed to have arrived in London last year and was able to travel in and out of Britain at least four times since his passport was cancelled by the Indian authorities in February 2018.
Modi was also reportedly living in the heart of the city above his jewellery boutique Nirav Modi on Old Bond Street, which has since closed down.