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PNB fraud case: Nirav Modi to remain in jail till Septembter 19; extradition trial likely in May 2020

Presiding over the hearing, Judge Tan Ikram directed the court clerk to seek a confirmation of the proposed five-day extradition trial dates starting May 11, 2020

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PNB fraud case: Nirav Modi to remain in jail till Septembter 19; extradition trial likely in May 2020
Nirav Modi appeared for the second time since his bail appeal was rejected by the UK High Court in July.

Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi has been further remanded in judicial custody till September 19 by a UK court. Modi, who is wanted in India in relation to the $2 billion PNB fraud case, appeared before the Westminster Magistrates' Court for a routine cal-over hearing via videolink from his London prison on Thursday.

Presiding over the hearing, Judge Tan Ikram told Modi that his trial dates would be confirmed at the next call-over hearing on September 19, when he will again appear via videolink. He also gave directions for the court clerk to seek a confirmation of the proposed five-day extradition trial dates starting May 11, 2020. A case management hearing is likely to be held in February next year ahead of the trial.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot presided over the last remand hearing in July at Westminster Magistrates' Court via videolink from the prison where Modi is being held. During the hearing last month, she had indicated that the dates for an estimated five-day trial would be mutually agreed by both sides soon.

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As per the timelines discussed during the brief hearing, Judge Arbuthnot said she expected to receive all the evidence and skeleton argument bundles in the case by April 8, with a five-day hearing then expected to be slotted in May next year.

Under UK law, Modi is expected to be produced before the court within a 28-day period. Modi has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in south-west London since he was arrested by Scotland Yard in March on an extradition warrant on charges brought by the Indian government.

Since his arrest, Modi has attempted to get bail but it has been rejected multiple times, the fourth and final time being by the UK High Court in June.

In her judgment handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Justice Ingrid Simler had concluded there were substantial grounds to believe that Modi would fail to surrender as he does possess the means to abscond.

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Reiterating similar concerns as those previously raised by Westminster Magistrates' Court during earlier bail attempts, Judge Simler ruled that after considering all the material carefully , she had found strong evidence to suggest there had been interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the case and concluded it can still occur.

The applicant has access to considerable financial resources, supported by an increased [bail bond security] offer of GBP 2 million, the judge noted.

The High Court judge stressed that while it was not for her to take a "definitive view" on the evidence, she had proceeded on the basis that the government of India has acted in good faith in what is undoubtedly a serious case and a sophisticated international conspiracy to defraud, together with money laundering.

Modi was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers on an extradition warrant on March 19 and has been in prison since.

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During subsequent hearings, Westminster Magistrates' Court was told that Modi was the "principal beneficiary" of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.

(With PTI inputs)

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