In a massive vindication for the Indian government on Friday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the extradition of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi to India. This development comes just days ahead of UK PM Boris Johnson's visit to India. Nirav Modi 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, he has been languishing in the Wandsworth Prison after being repeatedly denied bail. However, he can still appeal in the higher courts in the UK within 14 days against the Westminster Magistrates’ Court order which ordered his extradition to India.
United Kingdom's Home Minister has approved the extradition of Nirav Modi: CBI official pic.twitter.com/cdqLHDYM92— ANI (@ANI) April 16, 2021
Speaking exclusively to Republic TV on this development, Hari Prasad- the whistleblower in the PNB fraud case remarked, "I am very happy about it. My journey started in 2014 itself. So, I have been fighting the case against these guys. It went in different directions from the beginning to the end. Finally, Nirav Modi is expected to come back to India. But my main concern is about Mehul Choksi. Mehul Choksi is the mastermind of the entire game. Nirav Modi is only a small pawn in the whole game. But unfortunately, everyone is talking only about Nirav Modi and not Mehul Choksi. So, I will be more happy if Mehul Choksi is caught and brought back."
Pronouncing the extradition verdict on February 25, District Judge Samuel Goozee of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled 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.
For instance, the court dismissed the claim that Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had tried to influence the case. 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. Moreover, the judge said that there is no evidence to suggest that the fugitive diamond merchant will not receive justice if he is extradited to India.