In a key development, the Enforcement Directorate de-attached fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi's properties worth Rs.1000 crore. He has been accused of being the principal beneficiary of the fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertaking as part of a conspiracy to defraud the Punjab National Bank to the extent of Rs 13,570 crore. Since his arrest on March 19, 2019, the PNB scam accused has been languishing in the Wandsworth Prison after being repeatedly denied bail. The released properties will be auctioned soon to recover the pending dues of PNB.
These properties including the iconic Rhythm House at Kala Ghoda, a flat at Napean Sea Road and a office building in Kurla apart from jewellery. As per sources, the National Company Law Tribunal has appointed a liquidator to auction the properties. While replying to a discussion on the second batch of Supplementary Demands for Grants in Lok Sabha on Monday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman cited ED data to reveal that Rs.13,109.17 crore have been recovered from the asset sales of fugitives Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi as of July 2021.
Allowing Nirav Modi's extradition to India, District Judge Samuel Goozee of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled on February 25 that a prima facie case of money laundering is established. Noting that the Letters of Understanding had been issued between 2011 and 2017 without being entered in the CBS system of the bank to mislead authorities, he did not accept that the accused was involved in a legitimate business. Expressing satisfaction that Nirav Modi could be convicted, the judge also rejected other arguments made by the defence counsel.
Dismissing concerns about Nirav Modi's mental health, it contradicted the allegation of overcrowded prisons in India. Maintaining that Barrack 12 of Arthur Road Jail is far more spacious than the current prison where he is being held, the judge made it clear that the Indian government doesn't need to provide further details of healthcare that will be provided to the accused. However, Justice Martin Chamberlain of the UK High Court permitted him to appeal against his extradition to India citing Grounds 3 and 4 apart from Section 91 of the UK's Criminal Justice Act.
Grounds 3 and 4 pertain to Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights which protects a person from extradition if the court believes that he/she would face torture, degrading, or inhuman treatment in the said nation. On the other hand, Section 91 of the UK's Criminal Justice Act stipulates that the court has to consider the physical and mental condition of an individual and if it would be unjust to extradite him/her. The UK HC is expected to take up his appeal against extradition to India in January 2022.