Ni­rav not a hard­ened crim­i­nal, says lawyer as UK court hears bail plea

The Hindu Business Line - - NEWS -

The UK High Court on Tues­day be­gan hear­ing fugi­tive di­a­mond mer­chant Ni­rav Modi’s ap­peal against a lower court’s or­der to deny him bail as he fights his ex­tra­di­tion from Bri­tain to In­dia in the nearly $ 2-bil­lion Pun­jab Na­tional Bank (PNB) fraud and money laun­der­ing case.

Jus­tice In­grid Sim­ler, at the Royal Courts of Jus­tice here, be­gan hear­ing the ar­gu­ments pre­sented by Modi’s le­gal team in an at­tempt to per­suade the judge to over­turn the West­min­ster Mag­is­trates’ Court rul­ing to deny bail dur­ing three pre­vi­ous at­tempts, for fear that the 48-year-old would fail to sur­ren­der.

“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,” said Clare Montgomery, Modi’s bar­ris­ter, as she opened the ar­gu­ments in the hear­ing.

Judge Sim­ler in­ter­vened to in­di­cate that she has noted that Ni­rav Modi does pos­sess the “means” to flee the UK and that fac­tor must be a fea­ture in a case in­volv­ing “such size­able funds”.

She is ex­pected to give her rul­ing in the mat­ter later on Tues­day after hear­ing all the ar­gu­ments pre­sented by Modi’s le­gal team and the UK Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice Ni­rav Modi has al­ready been denied bail three times by the West­min­ster Mag­is­trates’ Court in London

(CPS), on be­half of the In­dian gov­ern­ment.

Bail at­tempts

Ni­rav 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.

Ni­rav, who has re­mained be­hind bars in ju­di­cial cus­tody since his ar­rest in March, had the right to file an ap­pli­ca­tion in the higher court and did not re­quire permission to ap­peal.

His le­gal team has de­scribed their client’s ex­pe­ri­ence at Wandsworth prison in south-west London as dam­ag­ing and had of­fered strin­gent elec­tronic tag and other con­di­tions akin to house ar­rest at his posh Cen­tre-point apart­ment in the West End of London in an at­tempt to per­suade the

judge to grant bail. At the first case man­age­ment hear­ing in the case at West­min­ster Mag­is­trates’ Court last month, the is­sue of bail was not raised and he was fur­ther re­manded in ju­di­cial cus­tody un­til June 27, when he is sched­uled to ap­pear via video-link.

At the hear­ing on May 30, Judge Ar­buth­not di­rected the In­dian gov­ern­ment to con­firm — in which prison Modi will be held if he were to be ex­tra­dited to In­dia. The court set a 14-day dead­line for a con­fir­ma­tion.

Ar­buth­not, who or­dered the ex­tra­di­tion of liquor ty­coon Vi­jay Mallya in De­cem­ber 2018, had sought a video of the ex­act cell at Arthur Road Jail in Mum­bai in which the for­mer King­fisher Air­lines boss is to be held.

She, there­fore, in­di­cated that if Ni­rav was to be lodged within the same premises, the court would most likely not have any ob­jec­tions.

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