In the case of economic fugitive Nirav Modi, the CBI called the judgement of a UK court “significant” and said it should serve as a reminder to all fugitives who have committed high-value fraud, that they cannot escape the law simply by changing their countries of residence.
The Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London(UK) on Thursday accepted the contention of Indian government to extradite Nirav Modi. The UK Court delivered the verdict wherein it held that the evidence against Nirav Modi is prima facie sufficient to order his extradition to India to face the charges.
The Court also upheld the assurances of the government of India and rejected the submissions of defence regarding human rights violations, fair trial and prison conditions. Rejecting the arguments of defence, the UK Court decided to send his case to the Secretary of the State, UK for the final decision.
The judgement of Westminster Magistrates’ Court is a significant achievement in the context of CBI’s efforts to curb corruption and is a reminder that fugitives, who have eluded the process of law after commission of 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 the investigation, trial, prison conditions, availability of health facilities in India and extraneous consideration, with a view to divert attention from his own acts.
ABOUT THE CASE:
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 on a complaint from Punjab National Bank on the allegations that the accused had hatched a criminal conspiracy amongst themselves to defraud the Punjab National Bank to the tune of Rs. 6,498 crore (approx) by fraudulently issuing Letters of Undertaking (LoU).
During the 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 Punjab National Bank, in conspiracy 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 Nirav Modi. The second charge sheet was filed on December 20 2019 against 30 accused persons including 25 accused chargesheeted earlier in respect of 150 outstanding fraudulent LOUs which had resulted in the wrongful loss of Rs 6805 crore (approx.) to PNB including 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 Nirav 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 which were shown as an exporter of Pearls to 3 Nirav Modi’s firms and importer of Pearl studded jewellery from the said firms of Nirav Modi.
THE ESCAPE & CHASE
The accused Nirav Modi had escaped from India on January 1 2018 before the registration of the case in CBI. Non-bailable arrest warrant was issued by the trial court against Nirav Modi on May 23 2018 and a red 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 the extradition of Nirav Modi in August 2018 for defrauding Punjab National Bank.
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 the second chargesheet was filed on December 20 2019, additional evidence were submitted to the Court in London for the total fraud amount of Rs. 6805 crore (approx.)
In addition, a second extradition request for the offences of intimidating the witnesses and destruction of evidence was also submitted to the UK government. The extradition proceedings against Nirav Modi were initiated before the Westminster Magistrate 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 the first extradition request was held in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, London during May 2020 and the hearing of the second extradition request was held during September 2020. The video of Arthur Road Prison, Mumbai, submitted by the government was also played in the court.
The hearing on the admissibility of the evidence was held on November 3, 2020, and the final submissions by both sides were made before the court in January 2021.