India / UK a safe haven, won’t flee, Nirav Modi lawyer tells court on bail plea; ruling tomorrow

Hindustan Times : Jun 12, 2019, 10:40 AM

There are ‘powerful’ reasons to believe that fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi will fail to surrender and interference with witnesses, the Crown Prosecution Service on Tuesday told the high court of England and Wales.

Nirav Modi’s lawyer Claire Montgomery, however, assured the court that Nirav Modi wasn’t like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who could find refuge in a foreign mission. “He is not going to find refuge in Ecuadorean embassy. He is an ordinary Indian jeweler,” she said, underlining that UK was a safe haven and he will certainly not run away.

The judge, who heard Nirav Modi’s bail plea and the government’s counter, will deliver its verdict on the request tomorrow morning.

Nirav Modi’s request to the high court is his fourth attempt to walk out of jail where he has spent the last 84 days. The Westminster Magistrates Court, which is to decide on India’s request to extradite him to face major charges of financial fraud, had earlier thrice rejected his bail request.

Modi, who was arrested by Scotland Yard on March 19, was last denied bail by chief judge Emma Arbuthnot on May 8 on grounds of ‘flight risk’, the scale of the alleged fraud, access to funds, potentially influencing witnesses and destroying evidence, and weak links to the UK.

His defence team had previously offered to furnish a security deposit of 2 million pounds and follow strict conditions, including a 24-hour curfew, in the magistrates court, but was refused bail.

Modi has been lodged in the Wandsworth prison in west London, where he has has been remanded until June 27. If the high court grants bail on Tuesday, he will be released.

The magistrates court denying Modi bail thrice is significant in the history of India-UK extradition treaty signed in 1992. Almost all Indians sought since were granted bail while their cases were considered in British courts, including former Dawood Ibrahim aide Iqbal Mirchi, Vijay Mallya, Sanjeev Chawla and Ravi Shankaran.

While Modi seeks bail in the high court, the magistrates court is preparing for the extradition trial to begin. At the last case management hearing, Arbuthnot sought information from India within 14 days of the jail where Modi would be lodged, if extradited.

She fixed July 29 as the date of the next case management hearing, by when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) acting on behalf of India is expected to submit an ‘opening note’ detailing key charges against him.