The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has hailed the verdict of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London to extradite Nirav Modi as a significant achievement in the context of CBI's efforts to curb corruption. In a statement issued, the CBI said that the judgement is a reminder that fugitives, who have eluded the process of law after committing large value frauds, cannot consider themselves above the process merely because they have changed jurisdictions.
"The judgement also vindicates the painstaking investigation by CBI, especially since Nirav Modi had raised various issues with regard to the admissibility of evidence, the fairness of investigation, trial, prison conditions, availability of health facilities in India and extraneous consideration, with a view to divert attention from his own acts," says the CBI statement.
The UK court accepted the contention of Government of India to extradite Modi. The court delivered the verdict today, wherein it held that the evidence against Modi is prima facie sufficient to order his extradition to India to face the charges. The court also upheld the assurances of Government of India and rejected the submissions of defence regarding human rights violations, fair trial and prison conditions. Rejecting the arguments of defence, the Court decided to send his case to the Secretary of the State, UK for final decision.
CBI had registered the case on January 31, 2018, against the partner of three private firms and others including then officials of Punjab National Bank (PNB) on a complaint from the lender alleging that the accused had hatched a criminal conspiracy to defraud it of Rs 6,498 crore (approximately) by fraudulently issuing Letters of Undertaking (LoUs).
During investigation, CBI conducted searches at 42 premises and arrested fifteen persons. A large number of witnesses were examined and voluminous documents were collected. Investigation revealed that the accused officials of the PNB, in connivance with said owners of the firms and others, had fraudulently issued a large number of LoUs to overseas banks for obtaining buyer's credit in favour of said three firms without any sanctioned limit or cash margin and without making entries in the CBS system of the bank. Investigation further revealed that the fraud was allegedly perpetrated despite the circulars issued by RBI.
The first charge sheet was filed on May 14, 2018, against 25 accused including Modi. The second charge sheet was filed on December 20, 2019, against 30 accused persons, including 25 accused charge-sheeted earlier in respect of 150 outstanding fraudulent LOUs which had resulted in wrongful loss of Rs 6,805 crore (approximately) to PNB. This included the interest and other charges paid by the bank to overseas banks which had extended the buyer's credit to the said 3 accused firms of Nirav Modi on the strength of the fraudulent LOUs of PNB.
It was also alleged that Modi in conspiracy with other accused had siphoned off the funds obtained as buyer's credit through dummy companies established by him in Dubai and Hong Kong. These companies were shown as exporter of pearls to three Nirav Modi firms and importer of pearl-studded jewellery from these firms.
Modi had fled India on January 1, 2018, before CBI registered the case. Non-bailable arrest warrant was issued by the trial court against him on May 23, 2018, and red corner notice was also issued against him on June 29, 2018, by Interpol. The first extradition request was sent by CBI to the United Kingdom for Modi's extradition in August 2018.
Nirav Modi was arrested by UK Police in London on March 19, 2019. His repeated applications for bail, were rejected by the Westminster Magistrates' Court and High Court, London. After second charge sheet was filed on December 20, 2019, additional evidences were submitted to the Court in London for the total fraud amount of Rs 6,805 crore.
In addition, second extradition request for the offences of intimidating witnesses and destruction of evidence was also submitted to the UK government. The extradition proceedings against Modi were initiated before the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. In extradition requests, CBI submitted voluminous oral and documentary evidence to substantiate the charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust, criminal misconduct by public servants, destruction of evidence and criminal intimidation of evidence.
The hearing of first extradition request was held in Westminster Magistrates' Court, London during May 2020 and the hearing of second extradition request was held during September 2020. The video of barrack of Arthur Road Prison in Mumbai, submitted by Government of India was also played in the court. The hearing on admissibility of the evidence was held on November 3, 2020, and the final submissions by the both sides were made before the court in January 2021.
Copyright©2022 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today