The extradition trial of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi in connection with the Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case has begun at a London court on Monday. The case will be heard by the Westminster Magistrates' Court on charges by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for next five days. The hearing will start after 2 pm IST (Indian Standard Time).
The 49-year-old diamond trader is likely to appear through video conferencing before the court from Wandsworth Prison in London amid ongoing lockdown due to coronavirus. The five-day hearing starting today relates to the Indian government's extradition request certified by the UK government last year. The CBI and the ED officials are in constant touch with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which is representing India before the London court. Indian officials were unable to fly to the UK on account of lockdown in both countries.
Beyond fraud, Indian agencies have pressed additional charges, including intimidating witnesses and destruction of evidence to make the case stronger. Since his arrest in March last year, the 49-year-old diamond trader has been lodged in Wandsworth Prison in south-west London.
The jeweller was arrested on March 19, 2019, on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges of fraud and money laundering brought by the Indian government. The Indian agencies had earlier alleged that on the instructions of Nirav Modi, mobile phones of his associates were destroyed. They also claimed he had threatened to kill a witness if he went against him. Nirav Modi's bail application has been rejected five times by the London court. The Indian agencies are hopeful that based on the strong evidence against Nirav Modi, he will be extradited to India.