A London court has extended the remand of fugitive Indian diamantaire Nirav Modi in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank scam. After his regular 28-day call-over appearance, Modi has been sent to custody and asked to appear before the court on January 30.
Modi is set to face his extradition trial on May 11, which is expected to last five days. During the hearing on Thursday, Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram of Westminster Magistrates' Court asked if there were any other issues to discuss, to which Modi said no.
Modi must appear for "call-over" hearings at Westminster Magistrates' Court until the case management hearings for his extradition trial kick in over the coming weeks.
The diamond merchant denies the charges of fraud and money laundering and his defence team, led by barrister Hugo Keith, has claimed that the Indian government has wrongly "blackened" Modi's name as a "world-class schemer".
Modi has been behind bars at Wandsworth, one of England's most overcrowded prisons, since his arrest on March 19 on an extradition warrant executed by the Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government.
During subsequent hearings, the UK court has been 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.
The 48-year-old Indian businessman had moved yet another bail application in November last year with an "unprecedented" house arrest guarantee, akin to those imposed on terrorist suspects. In his bail plea, he had cited mental health issues from being behind bars at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest in March.
But Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had turned down the bail plea on grounds of continued fears of witness intimidation and failure to surrender before the court for his extradition trial in May 2020.
"The past is a prediction of what might happen in the future," Judge Arbuthnot had said back then.
The UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian government in the extradition proceedings, said there is no further prospect of an appeal for bail in a higher court as the UK High Court has already turned down Modi's plea earlier this year. You only get to go once and can't keep appealing over and over, a CPS spokesperson had said.
(With PTI inputs)
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