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Nirav Modi loses appeal against extradition in the UK high court, has few options left | India News

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LONDON: Fugitive Indian diamantaire Nirav Modi’s appeal against his extradition to India to face charges of fraud, money-laundering and tampering with evidence and influencing witnesses was dismissed by two high court judges in the administrative court in London who ruled that he should be extradited.
The dismissal of Modi’s appeal against the decision of the lower court and the UK home secretary to extradite him marks an extraordinary fall from grace for a man once dubbed the Diamond King in India. Nirav Modi was once worth $ 1.8 billion and often seen, champagne in hand, rubbing shoulders with Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities and India’s elite.
Modi’s choices now are limited. To avoid extradition, he must now apply to get a point of law of public importance certified by the high court and then apply for leave to appeal in the Supreme Court in London within 14 days. If the high court does not grant certification, then his only hope is a Rule 39 injunction from the European Court of Human Rights. “To get that he has to prove a real and imminent risk to his health,” said Ben Keith, extradition barrister at 5 St Andrews Hill.
Since March 20, 2019 he has been languishing in Wandsworth prison in London fighting extradition to India to face charges of defrauding Punjab National Bank of over £700 million (Rs 6,477 crore), of laundering the proceeds of that fraud, and of redeploying employees from his company, Firestar Diamond, as dummy directors to front shadow companies in Dubai and Hong Kong to give the impression he was carrying out a genuine jewellery trade, and then holding them in Cairo against their will, seizing their passports and destroying evidence.
Nirav’s argument against extradition had been that he was severely depressed and at risk of suicide and it would be oppressive or unjust to extradite him. This was the same argument Julian Assange and Shrien Dewani had used to evade extradition, to the US and to South Africa, respectively. In both cases the decisions were overturned on appeal.
Nirav had also sought to argue he would face torture and inhuman treatment in an Indian jail but his barrister, Edward Fitzgerald KC, focused mainly on his mental health as this had a lower threshold to meet. However, Nirav’s arguments did not meet the threshold required to prove that extradition was oppressive or unjust.
The two judges, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith and Justice Jay, found Nirav’s depressive disorder was, on balance, “moderate” and the risk of suicide he presented was “significantly less” than would be the case had it been “severe”.
Handing down judgment, the judges also noted Nirav “has so far displayed no features of psychotic illness. Although he has exhibited persistent suicidal ideation, he has neither attempted suicide or deliberate self-harm nor disclosed plans to do so, except in the most vague and general way”.
They were impressed with the Indian government’s assurances that medical facilities would be available 24×7, that he could receive treatment from a private doctor, including from a psychiatrist paid for by him, and they were also impressed with a video of Barrack 12, Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai – where he and Vijay Mallya are meant to be housed.
“The steps taken to render Barrack 12 safe and to ensure that there is effectively constant monitoring, operate to reduce both the risk of attempted suicide and the prospect of suicide being committed…,” the judges said. They added that there arrangements, in a number of respects, were “more comprehensive than the regime that has been implemented at HMP Wandsworth”.
A big bone of contention in the case had been the fourth point in the Turner proposition — which establishes case law on whether it is oppressive or unjust to extradite someone. Fitzgerald had suggested the sentence in it — namely “the mental condition of the person must be such that it removes his capacity to resist the impulse to commit suicide” — needed rewriting, but the judges argued: “We are far from satisfied that any attempt to commit suicide would be other than a voluntary act as there described. Nirav is recorded on multiple occasions in the past as having contemplated the idea of suicide at some point in the future. This does not support the notion that, if he were to attempt suicide, it would be as a result of his having lost the capacity to resist the compulsion/wish/desire/intention; rather, it suggests that his act would be rational and thought-through. We also remind ourselves that, in the words of the Turner proposition, there is a public interest in giving effect to treaty obligations and this is an important factor to have in mind.”



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