London: Westminster Magistrate’s Court in Central London on Monday saw the start of another extradition trial involving another high profile Indian fugitive – this time the flamboyant diamond dealer Nirav Modi, who is accused of swindling more than Rs 11,000 crore from the state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB).
Nirav Modi appeared in the court via video link
Given the strict lockdown measures in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi appeared in the court via video link from Wandsworth prison in south London, where he has been detained since his arrest in March 2019, to hear the charges be laid out by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which is representing the Indian government.
District Judge Samuel Mark Goozee was told that Modi, 49, indulged in bribery, lies and threats in obtaining loans and lines of credits. CPS lawyer Helen Malcolm also said that when allegations against him were made public, Modi engaged in a campaign of intimidation against whistleblowers and a carefully orchestrated campaign of evidence destruction.
Aside from charges of fraud against the PNB, Modi is also accused by the Indian government of laundering the proceeds of the fraud.
He is further accused of criminal intimidation of witnesses and causing the disappearance of witnesses, charges that were the basis of the court last year denying Modi’s request for bail following his arrest, despite him offering some $4 million in security guarantees.
The court also heard that Modi himself would not be giving evidence during the 5-day trial. His case is expected to be substantiated by a series of expert witnesses.