In a major setback to fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi, the prime accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, his younger sister and brother-in-law have decided to testify against him after a special court approved their application for grant of pardon.
Last month, Purvi Mehta and her husband, Maiank Mehta, had filed pleas before special court in Mumbai for turning approver against Nirav Modi in the PNB scam case, saying that they could provide "substantial and important evidence" related to his dealings.
Purvi, a Belgian national, is an accused in the case registered by the Enforcement Directorate, while Nirav Modi is the prime accused in a $2 billion bank fraud at state-owned PNB. He has also been charged with intimidating witnesses and tampering with evidence.
Special judge for cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) V C Barde had accepted their application on Monday. The order became available on Tuesday.
The "position of the accused (Purvi Modi) in this case after tender of pardon is that she shall be marked as approver", the court said in its order.
"The accused staying abroad presently shall be directed to present herself before the court, for which purpose the prosecution shall take necessary steps," the order said.
In her plea for pardon, Purvi Modi said that she was not a prime accused and has been attributed only a limited role by the investigating agency. Purvi claimed that she has fully co-operated with the ED by providing all requisite information and documents.
On account of being Nirav Modi's sister, she was in a unique position to provide "substantial and important evidence, information, proof, and documents and access to bank accounts, assets, companies and entities that are relevant to Nirav Modi and his actions/dealings", the plea said.
Meanwhile, a UK court is set to hear the closing arguments in the extradition case of Nirav Modi on January 7 and 8. Reports suggest that District Judge Samuel Goozee will hear the final arguments from both sides before he delivers the final judgement in the case a few weeks later. At the last full hearing in the case in November, Judge Goozee heard the arguments for and against the admissibility of certain witness statements provided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) and ruled that the evidence to establish a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering against the fugitive diamantaire is broadly admissible.
Nirav Modi has been behind bars at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest last year following India's extradition request for him.
By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs