NEW DELHI :
Days ahead of a visit to India by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the British Home Office has given the green signal for the extradition to India of Nirav Modi, wanted on fraud and money laundering charges in an estimated $ 2 billion scam.
Two people familiar with the developments in New Delhi separately confirmed on Friday that UK Home Secretary Priti Patel had signed off on the order to extradite Modi wanted in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, executed in collusion with his uncle Mehul Choksi. Choksi is also absconding.
This raises hopes for the extradition also of Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya who is also in the UK with India seeking his return to face charges related to the borrowing over ₹9,000 crore in loans from banks that authorities say he had no intention of repaying.
In the case of Nirav Modi, it is possible to appeal the extradition order and he has a window of 14 days to make that application in the High Court after the Home Secretary makes her decision known, a PTI report from London said. Any appeal, if granted, will be heard at the Administrative Division of the High Court in London.
In New Delhi however, Patel’s decision was being seen as a victory for the government. And it comes ahead of UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s India visit expected to begin on 26 April.
Modi, 50, is behind bars at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London. On 25 February, the Westminster Magistrates’ Court had concluded that the diamond merchant had a case to answer before the Indian courts. District Judge Samuel Goozee had ruled at the end of a two year long legal battle that Modi could be extradited to India and dismissed the human rights concerns that Modi’s medical needs would not be addressed in Indian prison.
Under the provisions of the UK Extradition Act 2003, the judge sent his findings to the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. It is the UK Cabinet minister who is authorised to order an extradition under the India-UK Extradition Treaty.
The CBI had registered the case in January 2018 against Modi, Choksi and others including then officials of Punjab National Bank on a complaint from the bank on the allegations that the accused had hatched a criminal conspiracy to defraud the public sector Bank by issuing fake Letters of Undertaking. Letters of Undertaking are a guarantee that a bank gives to banks abroad where its client approaches for credit.
Modi had left India in January 2018 before registration of case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). A non bailable arrest warrant was issued by the trial court against him followed by a red corner notice in June 2018 by Interpol. Modi was arrested by the UK Police in London in March 2019 and his seven applications for bail were rejected by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court and High Court, London.
In its extradition request, CBI submitted detailed evidence to substantiate the charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust, criminal misconduct by public servants, destruction of evidence and criminal intimidation of evidence.
PTI contributed to this report