London, September 9
The jail circumstances in India and Nirav Modi’s fragile psychological well being have been as soon as once more in focus through the diamond product owner’s ongoing extradition listening to associated to the Punjab National Bank (PNB) rip-off case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Wednesday.
The third day of the five-day listening to, presided over by Justice Samuel Goozee, was dedicated to the defence laying out additional arguments towards a prima facie case of fraud and cash laundering towards Modi, who noticed the courtroom proceedings through reside videolink from Wandsworth Prison in London the place he has been lodged since his arrest in March final yr.
The 49-year-old jeweller appeared significantly inanimate by way of most a part of the day, with the decide at one level pausing the listening to to verify if the videolink had frozen and requested Modi to maintain shifting infrequently so the courtroom will be certain he’s nonetheless related to the proceedings.
Modi’s defence group, led by barrister Clare Montgomery, raised additional points across the circumstances at Barrack 12 at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, the place he’s to be lodged on being extradited, claiming it’s coated in its entirety in a blue metallic cowl because it housed a terrorist in 2007. This makes the barrack “incredibly hot”, with different issues comparable to damp, mud, bugs and rodents, she quoted testimony as saying.
Besides fears associated to a COVID-19 outbreak earlier within the yr, references have been additionally made to a medical skilled’s “addendum report” which highlighted “much more serious” issues round Modi’s psychological well being.
UK-based prisons skilled Dr Alan Mitchell, who has beforehand given witness statements within the extradition case of former Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya, and the medical skilled are amongst a set of defence witnesses scheduled to present reside proof in courtroom over these points later this week. They will likely be cross-examined by Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) barrister Helen Malcolm, who’s arguing on behalf of the Indian Government.
During Wednesday’s listening to, Modi’s defence group additionally claimed their consumer had been the topic of a “trial by media” and wouldn’t obtain a good trial in India.
After the decide had turned down a defence request earlier this week to permit retired Indian High Court Judge Abhay Thipsay to present his videolink skilled assertion privately, his written assertion was briefly introduced in courtroom to focus on assertions towards the admissibility of sure proof introduced by the Government of India.
Thipsay’s testimony questions whether or not the statements offered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) meet the “statutory requirements” beneath Indian legislation and raises doubts over whether or not sure alleged actions, such because the destruction of cell phones, “amount to disappearance of evidence”.
Modi is topic to 2 units of prison proceedings, the primary introduced by the CBI regarding a large-scale fraud stated to have been dedicated upon PNB and the ED case, regarding the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud. An extra extradition request was made in February this yr of two extra offences of the disappearance of proof and intimidating a witness.
The CPS should set up a prima facie case towards Modi to permit the decide to rule that he has a case to reply earlier than the Indian courts. If the decide finds in favour of the Indian Government, the difficulty will return to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to formally certify his extradition to India to face trial.
A ruling within the case just isn’t anticipated earlier than the top of this yr or early subsequent yr, as a closing submissions listening to has been tentatively scheduled for December 1.
The costs towards the diamond service provider centre round his companies Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds making fraudulent use of a credit score facility provided by PNB, often known as “letters of undertaking” (LoUs), which resulted in a fraud amounting to almost USD 2 billion. PTI