UK High Court Orders Fugitive Nirav Modi's Extradition To India

Diamond merchant Nirav Modi faces fraud and money laundering charges in India. He is currently lodged in a British jail.

Fugitive Nirav Modi

A British court on Wednesday ordered the extradition of fugitive businessman Nirav Modi to India to face fraud and money laundering charges. 

Nirav is implicated in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) bank fraud case amounting to an estimated $2 billion. 

The High Court in London delivered the verdict on Wednesday. The bench comprised of Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay. They were presiding over an appeal filed by Nirav earlier this year. 

Nirav dad been granted permission to appeal against District Judge Sam Goozee's Westminster Magistrates' Court ruling in favour of extradition last February. The High Court on Wednesday ruled that Goozee's order from last year in favour of extradition was "sound".

Nirav, 51, remains behind bars at Wandsworth prison in south-east London.

The leave to appeal in the High Court was granted on two grounds – under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) to hear arguments if it would be "unjust or oppressive" to extradite Modi due to his mental state and Section 91 of the Extradition Act 2003, also related to mental ill health. 

The HC said, "Pulling these various strands together and weighing them in the balance so as to reach an overall evaluative judgment on the question raised by Section 91, we are far from satisfied that Mr Modi’s mental condition and the risk of suicide are such that it would be either unjust or oppressive to extradite him.

"It may be that the main benefit of the appeal has been to obtain the extensive further [Indian government] assurances that we have identified in the course of this judgment, which render the position clear to Mr Modi’s advantage and the District Judge’s decision supportable."

However, Nirav is not going to be extradited immediately as he still has multipple legal options to challenge the High Court's ruling.

Nirav can approach the Supreme Court on a point of law of public importance, to be applied for to the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision within 14 days of a High Court verdict. However, this involves a high threshold as appeals to the Supreme Court can only be made if the High Court has certified that the case involves a point of law of general public importance. 

Finally, after all avenues in the UK courts are exhausted, Nirav could still seek a so-called Rule 39 injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 

Nirav's lawyers are yet to comment on any plans to appeal the High Court verdict.     

Nirav is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case relating to a large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of letters of undertaking (LoUs) or loan agreements, and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case relating to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud. 

Nirav also faces two additional charges of "causing the disappearance of evidence" and intimidating witnesses or "criminal intimidation to cause death", which were added to the CBI case.

Nirav was arrested in the United Kingdom (UK) in early 2020. 

"Nirav Deepak Modi, (Date of Birth 24.02.71), was arrested on behalf of the Indian Authorities on Tuesday, 19 March, in Holborn," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement at the time.

(With PTI inputs)