Nirav Modi, fighting extradition to India, is unlikely to get a fair trial there due to the politicization of his case and he faces a “high risk of suicide” due to the lack of adequate medical facilities in Indian prisons, his legal team told a UK court on Tuesday.
The 49-year-old fugitive diamond merchant is fighting extradition charges related to the estimated $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case brought by the Indian government at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.
On the second day of Modi’s five-day extradition hearing at the court, Justice Samuel Goozee was taken through official Indian prison data, including statistics on coronavirus cases at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai where Modi is to be held if he is extradited.
Modi’s barrister, Clare Montgomery, also laid out her plans to depose further expert witnesses during the course of the week, including a former Indian Supreme Court judge referred to only by his last name of Katju.
“There has been a significant decline in the integrity of the justice system in India and the Nirav Modi case has been made a political issue, with no presumption made of innocence,” Montgomery told the court.
She claimed that because the jeweler had been made into a “hate figure” in India, there was an “overwhelming political necessity” to condemn him and see him convicted.
She added that other defense witnesses also highlight a decline in the “standards of behavior” of investigating agencies, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The court was told about a “marked decline” in Modi’s mental health at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London, where stricter coronavirus curbs have meant a lack of access to inhouse counseling facilities and very limited contact with family, with only 25 minutes allowed outside his cell in July.
“He has increasingly suffered from severe depression and the latest assessment shows he is on the threshold of being subject to hospitalization unless given proper treatment and his fitness to plead may be in doubt here or in the requesting state (India) given a high risk of suicide,” Montgomery said, adding that the availability of psychiatric help in Indian prisons was “utterly inadequate”.
“The laconic assurance [of the government of India] and the prison video to say that he will be kept in humane conditions appears to be completely inadequate when one bears in mind his psychiatric condition and in addition the looming threat of COVID-19,” she said.
Modi’s legal team also indicated plans to depose an expert in tropical medicine in an attempt to counter the Indian government claims that the COVID-19 outbreak reported at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai in May had been brought under control.
“What is claimed is improbable and the management of COVID-19 within Arthur Road Jail does not add up,” Montgomery told the judge.
The defense arguments follow the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) opening the second part of the extradition trial on Monday on behalf of the Indian authorities, which focused on establishing a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering against Modi.
CPS barrister Helen Malcolm took Justice Goozee through detailed witness statements by so-called “dummy directors” including Ashish Lad, who recorded a video back in June 2018 to say that his life had been threatened by Modi.
She laid out details of how as the details of the fraud were beginning to emerge, the jeweler started by hiding most of the evidence, in particular the originals of “letters of undertaking” (LoUs) from PNB, and then went on to “threaten, intimidate, cajole and bribe officials.”
“He destroyed mobiles of dummy directors and threatened one of the witnesses with death,” Malcolm told the court.
Modi, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, has been observing the court proceedings remotely from a room in Wandsworth Prison and referring to bundles of documents laid out before him from time to time.
He is subject to two sets of criminal proceedings, the first brought by the CBI relating to a large-scale fraud said to have been committed upon PNB and the ED case, relating to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.
A further extradition request was made in February this year, certified by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, of two additional offenses relating to allegations that Modi interfered with the CBI investigation by causing the disappearance of evidence and intimidating a witness.
The CPS must establish a prima facie case against Modi to allow the judge to rule that he has a case to answer before the Indian courts. If the judge finds a prima facie case against Modi, it will go back to Patel to formally certify his extradition to India to stand trial.
A ruling in the case is expected at the end of this year after a final hearing scheduled for December 1.
Modi has made repeated attempts at bail over the past year, each of which was turned down as he is deemed a flight risk. The jeweler was arrested on March 19 last year on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard.
Instagram Down: Giving 5xx Server Error
Update 19 Mar 2021 23:38 IST: Instagram and other apps are now working fine.
Instagram is currently facing downtime and users from all around the world are reporting Instagram Server Down on Twitter. Some users are also facing downtime on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
The Instagram app is showing “couldn’t refresh feed”. and the Instagram website is giving 5xx Server Error.
Earthquake in Nalanda, Patna – Bihar with 3.5 Magnitude
An earthquake of magnitude 3.5 was reported near Nalanda in Bihar on Monday night, according to India’s National Center for Seismology.
The epicenter of the earthquake was 20 km northwest (NW) of Nalanda, Bihar, India, the agency said. The earthquake struck at 9:23 PM IST at a depth of 5 km from the surface. Tremors were also felt in Gaya, Bhagalpur, Nalanda, Patna.
Uttarakhand Power Plant Damaged After The Glacier Burst
Uttarakhand: A glacial burst in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand triggered an avalanche and massive flooding of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers on Sunday morning, forcing the emergency evacuation of thousands from surrounding areas, and damaging houses and the nearby Rishiganga power project.
Disaster response and management teams have been deployed to conduct search-and-rescue and relief operations. Around 100 to 150 people may have been killed, Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Om Prakash told news agency ANI. Authorities fear hundreds more may still be stuck. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Assam to campaign for Assembly polls, tweeted: “India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety.”
Disaster management teams have been mobilized and hundreds of ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) have been rushed for rescue operations.
SN Pradhan, chief of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said that teams from the relief force have been moved for search-and-rescue and relief operations in Uttarakhand where a glacial burst has triggered an avalanche. “The glacial burst has taken out a bridge constructed by the Border Road Organisation. Also in the higher reaches, the Rishiganga hydel project also has been damaged,” he said.