Monday, November 29, 2021

Modi denied bail in fraud case


LONDON: Fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi was denied bail in a London court on Friday, following his arrest last week by British authorities on charges over his alleged involvement in a $2 billion fraud at the state-run Punjab National Bank.

The 48-year-old Modi, who denies the charges, faces the possibility of extradition to India where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under pressure to take a firm stance on the case ahead of national elections in April-May.

“I find that there are substantial grounds to fear failure to surrender,” magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said in a Westminster court, adding that the fact Modi had in 2017 applied for a visa to the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu exacerbated those concerns.

A witness has alleged that Modi threatened to kill him and also offered around 2 million rupees ($28,918.45) as a bribe not to testify, Toby Cadman, a lawyer representing the Indian government, told the court.

The prosecution also allege that mobile phones and a server containing evidence critical to the fraud case have been destroyed at the request of Modi, Cadman said.

Clare Montgomery, a lawyer representing Modi, said there was no evidence to support the claims of witness intimidation.

Modi, whose diamonds have adorned Hollywood stars such as Kate Winslet and Dakota Johnson, is among those accused of defrauding the bank in a case that has shaken confidence in a state banking sector that accounts for some 70 percent of India’s banking assets.

The diamond magnate was arrested in the Holborn area of central London last week after he went into a bank to open an account and a member of staff contacted police.

He will next appear before the court via video link on April 26.

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