Thursday Nov 07, 2019
LONDON: Billionaire Indian fugitive Nirav Modi has threatened to kill himself if his extradition to India is ordered by courts in the United Kingdom on the request of the Indian government.
The jailed diamond dealer, 49, appeared at the Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday with his barrister, Hugo Keith QC, to apply for bail, but Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot refused him for the fifth time, saying the Indian businessman was a flight risk and had extensive means to escape.
Nirav Modi has said in his statement to the judge that there was no chance he would get a fair trial in India and would prefer to kill himself if extradited to the country. His lawyers have said that extraditing him to India would put his life at risk.
Nirav Modi is fighting extradition to India on charges of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case amounting to nearly USD 2 billion. His trial is due to start in May next year but his lawyers argued before the judge that his bail security will be increased from £2 million to £4 million and he should be put under extreme bail conditions. The judge, however, said that increased bail security would not guarantee that the diamond merchant would not flee.
The businessman has been imprisoned at the Wandsworth prison since his arrest on March 19 on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government.
His lawyer told the court that Modi was assaulted by two fellow inmates in an "extortion attempt" at the Wandsworth prison and that his life was at risk in the jail facility. Hugo Keith QC told the court that his client was kicked to the floor and punched in the face a day earlier and that the "targeted attack" was partly caused by media coverage wrongly describing his client as a "billionaire diamantaire".
He accused Narendra Modi's government of discrediting the retail tycoon's name as a "world-class schemer". The lawyer told the court that the Indian tycoon's mental health had deteriorated in prison where he suffers from anxiety, depression, and isolation.
James Lewis QC, appearing for the Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Indian government, argued that Modi had said he would kill himself if his extradition is ordered. "That, in itself, is the strongest motivation for someone to abscond. There is no trust because he has interfered with witnesses and destroyed evidence."
Modi has protested his innocence and says charges against him are false.