UK court allows extradition of diamond billionaire Nirav Modi to India

LONDON (Reuters) - A London court ruled on Thursday that billionaire Indian diamond magnate Nirav Modi could be extradited to his home country to face charges of fraud, money laundering and interfering with an investigation.

FILE PHOTO: A Nirav Modi showroom is pictured in New Delhi, India, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Modi, whose diamonds have been worn by the likes of Kate Winslet and Dakota Johnson, was arrested in Britain in March 2019 and has been in custody since then, appearing at court hearings by video-link from Wandsworth Prison.

He faces several sets of charges relating to an alleged large-scale fraud at the Punjab National Bank, to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud, and to alleged intimidation of witnesses and disappearance of evidence.

Modi has denied any wrongdoing.

District Judge Samuel Goozee, of Westminster Magistrates Court, said India had provided sufficient evidence to establish that he had a case to answer.

“I am satisfied that there is evidence upon which (Modi) could be convicted in relation to the conspiracy to defraud the (Punjab National Bank). A prima face case is established,” he said in the judgment.

That does not mean the judge said Modi would be convicted, but rather that there was evidence he should answer at trial.

Goozee also said there was a prima facie case on the issue of alleged conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, including on an alleged death threat against a witness.

The judge rejected the defence team’s argument that extradition would be oppressive due to Modi’s poor mental health.

He also considered evidence about prison conditions in India. The Indian government told the court Modi would be held at Barrack No 12 at the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, and provided precise details about the conditions there, including a video.

In accordance with English law, the case now goes to British Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel, who will make the final decision on whether Modi is extradited.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Alexandra Hudson