A High Court judge in London on Monday granted fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi permission to appeal against a magistrates’ court order in favour of extradition to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering before the Indian courts on mental health and human rights grounds.
Justice Martin Chamberlain delivered his verdict remotely under COVID-19 rules to conclude that the arguments presented by the 50-year-old diamond merchant’s legal team concerning his “severe depression” and “high risk of suicide” were arguable at a substantial hearing.
He also noted that the adequacy of the measures capable of preventing “successful suicide attempts” at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where Nirav Modi is to be detained upon extradition, also fall within the arguable ambit.
“At this stage, the question for me is simply whether the appellant’s case on these grounds is reasonably arguable. In my judgment, it is. I will grant permission to appeal on Grounds 3 and 4,” Justice Chamberlain’s ruling notes.
Grounds 3 and 4 relate to Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), or the right to life, liberty and security, and Section 91 of the UK’s Criminal Justice Act 2003 related to fitness to plead.
The judge noted that the arguments made under both grounds overlap in this case as they both rely principally on the appellant, Nirav Modi’s mental ill health.
“I will not restrict the basis on which those grounds can be argued, though it seems to me that there should be a particular focus on whether the judge was wrong to reach the conclusion he did, given the evidence as to the severity of the appellant’s [Nirav Modi’s] depression, the high risk of suicide and the adequacy of any measures capable of preventing successful suicide attempts in Arthur Road prison,” the ruling notes.
Permission to appeal on all other grounds was declined and the case will now proceed for a substantive hearing before the High Court in London under Grounds 3 and 4.
The diamond merchant, wanted in India to face charges of fraud and money laundering in the estimated USD 2-billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case, meanwhile remains at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London.
Nirav Modi is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings, with the CBI case relating to a large-scale fraud upon PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of letters of undertaking (LoUs) or loan agreements, and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case relating to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.
He also faces two additional charges of “causing the disappearance of evidence” and intimidating witnesses or “criminal intimidation to cause death”, which were added to the CBI case.
India is a designated Part 2 country by virtue of the Extradition Act 2003, which means it is the UK Cabinet minister who has the authority to order a requested person’s extradition after all legal issues are dealt with in the courts.