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.
A man in New Zealand finds insects in his Domino’s pizza
A man in West Auckland, New Zealand says he was left feeling sick after allegedly discovering maggots (insects larva) on his takeaway pizza order from Domino’s. However, the Domino’s Pizza outlet where Reginald Thalari says he bought the pizza denied the claim.
On Tuesday afternoon, Thalari purchased four pizzas from Domino’s Pizza outlet in Avondale for his employees. But it was after they had eaten a few slices that Thalari alleges they made a stomach-churning discovery.
“It was disgusting. We ordered four pizzas but when we opened the box with pepperoni we saw maggots on the ham. I felt like spewing, to be honest. If someone says would you like some pizza I think I’ll turn them down next time.”
However, a Domino’s spokesperson said that it is extremely unlikely maggots would have been in store pre-purchase and said it would be “impossible” for eggs to survive the temperature of their ovens.
“Domino’s takes food health and safety extremely seriously, and ensures these standards are upheld through regular audits and inspections of stores throughout the year,” the spokesperson said.
The Domino’s Pizza spokeswoman further said that “Upon learning of this customer’s experience, we contacted the customer directly and have organised a deep clean of the store, as well as for our pest control company to further inspect,”
Singer Shobhit Sahay won hearts with his song ‘Mehrbaan Alvida’
Music can evoke many emotions in you. Songs help you express feelings for which you can’t find words. Singers play a key role in giving that effect to a song with their beautiful voices. In a country like India, many young singers are leaving people impressed with their impeccable talent. Shobhit Sahay from Muzaffarpur is one such talented singer/vocalist who is here to rule hearts.
Currently, Shobhit Sahay is grabbing headlines and making people fall in love with his song ‘Mehrbaan Alvida’. His melodious voice has elevated the song’s mood along with the catchy music. The song is trending on the internet and has crossed more than 100K views recently. Shobhit is over the moon with such a positive response to his latest release.
Along with being a good singer, Shobhit Sahay is also popular among the netizens as a social media influencer. Shobhit has thousands of followers on his Instagram account, where he shares videos covering various tracks. A few months ago, legendary singer Stebin Ben praised Shobhit for his amazing vocal skills. Shobhit also runs a YouTube channel where people can’t get enough of his talent and music skills.
Shobhit shares about his journey and love for music, “I have been into music since childhood. I used to listen to singers like Arijit Singh, Stebin Ben, Jubin Nautiyal and others. They captivate your mind with their soulful voice. They made me believe in my dreams and I am happy that people enjoy my work, especially my latest songs. I hope I keep making more original songs and people keep showering me with such good love.”
Thanks to the success of Mehrbaan Alvida, singer Shobhit Sahay has got the attention of many top Bollywood composers. Currently, various music composers have approached his to sing either for a movie or web show. Shobhit is excited about the way his singing career is shaping. Soon, he will announce his new project on social media.
About the enormous love and appreciation she receives on social media, the singer expresses, “I am incredibly amazed by the support and fondness of my Instagram followers. Their constant comments, appreciation, likes, and sharing of my content is what made me so strong in the world of social media. Deeply overwhelmed with the response. I hope I keep giving my best and make my followers and music lovers happy.”
Top military officer of India, CDS General Bipin Rawat passed away in chopper crash
General (retd) Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff General, passed away on Wednesday when an Indian Air Force helicopter ferrying him and 13 others crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, the Indian Air Force said.
The crash took place as Rawat was on his way to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. It is being speculated that the crash took place due to low visibility in foggy conditions.
“With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident,” the Indian Air Force (IAF) said in a Twitter post late Wednesday.
“Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course today,” the IAF said in a second post.
Rawat, a former Indian army chief, took office as the first CDS on 1 January 2020 at the start of a three-year term. He was the one point defence advisor to the Defence Minister. He was also entrusted with carrying out some of the country’s key defence reforms – creating synergy among the three services by merging their 17 different commands into four or five joint commands. The new commands were to focus on specific borders.