Diamantaire Nirav Modi’s bail hearing: London court to announce decision on Wednesday

The Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday heard the defence and prosecution arguments on the bail petition of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi who is wanted in a $1.8 billion bank fraud in India. The court has reserved the verdict for 10 am on Wednesday after the hearing concluded. Representing the diamantaire in the court, lawyer Claire Montgomery sought to impress upon the judge that there was no witness interference in communications with the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Montgomery read out a series of email exchanges between Modi and his brother to show that there was no evidence of any interference. He said the witnesses from Abu Dhabi had timely replied to emails from ED. Modi had moved the bail petition so he could get enough time to prepare himself for the trial. Montgomery told the court that Modi is an ordinary person and not at flight risk; and he can be asked not to contact the witnesses in the case directly or indirectly. In his argument, Montgomery further stressed that Modi’s case is not like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seeking refuge in some embassy.

On its part, the prosecution pointed out that it’s not by accident that he arrived in the UK; he carried out the frauds knowing full well its consequences. The Crown Prosecution Service requested the judge to reject his bail application saying that he shouldn’t be given any relief as he faces serious charges. It argued that if Modi is given bail, it’s possible that evidence can be tempered with. In desperation, he has been making huge offers of cash securities, amounting up to £2 million, to get bail, it added. The judge, however, noted that the accused has a good chance he would be extradited and could be arrested if he loses the trial, adding that he has a qualified legal team in place which is preparing to face the Indian government to stop his extradition.

The diamantaire had fled to London last year after the Indian authorities unearthed a multi-crore fraud in the state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) involving him and his company Firestar Diamond. India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had asked the Interpol to help locate him. Modi, who was ranked 85th on Forbes’ India rich list in 2017, said he owed much less and denied the fraud charges. The 48-year-old, who grew up in Belgium before moving to India, also owns the Nirav Modi Brand which has 14 stores in Mumbai, Hong Kong, London, Macau and New York, among others.

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