Fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi, the main accused in Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank scam, will not be released on bail, a court in London ruled today, rejecting his bail application. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said Nirav Modi’s attempt to try and seek citizenship of Vanuatu, a remote island country located in the South Pacific Ocean, shows he was trying to move away from India at an important time.
“There are substantial grounds to believe that Nirav Modi will fail to surrender,” Judge Arbuthnot said. The same judge had ordered the extradition of another fugitive tycoon – former Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya – last December.
This is the second time the billionaire diamantaire has been denied bail since his arrest last week.
Nirav Modi will now return to HMP Wandsworth prison in south-west London, where he has been lodged since last Wednesday. The next date of hearing has been fixed as April 26, when Nirav Modi will be produced in court via video conference.
In court, arguing against granting Nirav Modi bail, the Crown Prosecution Service or CPS, which is appearing on behalf of Indian authorities, had said that the billionaire made a death threat to an eyewitness and tried to bribe another Rs 20 lakh to evade arrest.
The CPS had also argued in court that there is a great risk of Nirav Modi fleeing if he is granted bail. “There is a real risk that he could flee, interfere with witnesses, interfere with evidence,” the prosecution had said.
The prosecution had also argued that telephone records relating to the PNB fraud have been destroyed in India on the directions of Nirav Modi.
Nirav Modi’s lawyer Claire Montgomery, who had earlier represented Vijay Mallya – had countered to say his client is not a great flight risk as he rented a flat in London in his own name and was trying to open a bank account as well in his name just when he was arrested on March 20.
Before the hearing began, the CPS had submitted a new file with additional evidence against Nirav Modi in the Westminster Magistrates Court.
Nirav Modi, 48, was denied bail by District Judge Marie Mallon at his first hearing soon after his arrest by Scotland Yard officers from a central London bank branch as he tried to open a new bank account. During that hearing, Nirav Modi had offered half-a-million pounds as bail bond.
Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI after PNB alleged that they cheated it of Rs. 13,000 crore with the involvement of a few bank employees.
Both Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi left India before the details of the fraud emerged in January last year.
Nirav Modi, till his arrest, was believed to be living at a 33-storey Centre Point Apartment complex in West End, the post theatre district in London. Last month, he was sighted in London, walking around in an expensive ostrich-hide jacket. He had brushed off the questions of a reporter who spotted him, with a “no comments”. The Telegraph, where the reporter worked, later reported that he has started a diamond business in Soho after acquiring necessary permits.
With inputs from agencies
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Nirav Modi, Accused In PNB Scam, Denied Bail Again By London Court – NDTV News