UK high court rejects Nirav Modi’s appeal against extradition to India

The UK high court has turned down diamantaire Nirav Modi’s appeal against his extradition to India, leaving him with five days to mount a further appeal in what is expected to be a protracted legal process.

In February, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court cleared Nirav Modi’s extradition, finding him guilty of fraud and money laundering in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam and dismissing his claims that he wouldn’t get a fair trial in India. UK home secretary Priti Patel subsequently approved the extradition in April.

Nirav Modi had approached the UK high court to ascertain if there were any grounds for an appeal against Patel’s decision or the Westminster Magistrates’ Court order. This appeal was rejected by a high court judge on Tuesday.

A UK high court official told PTI the permission to appeal was “rejected on paper”, leaving Nirav Modi with the option of making his case at an oral hearing in the high court through a renewed “leave to appeal” application that has to be filed within five days.

It is believed Nirav Modi plans to make such an application, and a judge will then determine if the matter should proceed to a full appeal hearing.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that Tuesday’s decision by the UK high court was just one step in what is set to be a protracted legal process. There is also speculation that Nirav Modi will have the option of approaching the European Court of Human Rights after exhausting all his legal options in the UK.

The 50-year-old businessman has been held at Wandsworth Prison in southwest London since March 2019, when he was arrested on the basis of India’s extradition request. He is the second high-profile economic offender, after former liquor baron Vijay Mallya, whose extradition has been cleared by a trial court in the UK. Mallya lost his appeal against extradition in April 2020, though the British government has said his extradition is being held up by a “confidential legal issue”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought the speedy extradition of both economic offenders during a virtual summit with his British counterpart Boris Johnson in May.

In its judgement in February, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court had asserted that Nirav Modi has a case to answer and said that he, along with his brother Nehal Modi and others, had defrauded PNB, laundered the money taken from the bank and conspired to destroy evidence and intimidate witnesses.

Nirav Modi’s argument that India has poor prison conditions was rejected by Westminster Magistrates’ Court, with the judge saying that conditions at Barrack Number 12 in Arthur Road Jail in Maharashtra, where he will be held, “are far less restrictive and far more spacious than the current regime he is being held in within the prison estate in our own jurisdiction”.

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