Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, wanted in India in connection with the nearly $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case, was on Thursday further remanded to judicial custody until October 17. Nirav, 48, appeared before the Westminster Magistrates' Court via videolink from his London prison for a routine "call-over" remand hearing. His trial is expected for May 11-15, 2020. Modi has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in south-west London, one of England's most overcrowded jails, since his arrest in March on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government, being represented by the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in court. He was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers on an extradition warrant on March 19 and has been in prison since.
Under the UK law, Modi is expected to be produced before the court within a 28-day period during his judicial custody pending trial. Since his arrest, his legal team, led by solicitor Anand Doobay and barrister Clare Montgomery, have made four bail applications, which have been rejected each time due to Modi being deemed a flight risk.
Earlier, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) - on behalf of Indian authorities – told the court that Modi threatened to kill an eyewitness and tried to bribe another Rs 20 lakh to evade arrest. The CPS also submitted the additional file of evidence in court. During last hearing, Modi's defence team, led by barrister Clare Motgomery, who was also the barrister for former Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya in his extradition case - opposed the CPS claims of Modi being a flight risk and stressed that in fact Modi sees UK as a "haven where his case will be fairly considered".
Westminster Court’s Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who was delivering the verdict at the bail hearing of Nirav Modi made a revelation that the fugitive diamantaire was trying for Vanuatu citizenship. "He was attempting to become a citizen of Vanuatu and that is some way away for someone trying to run businesses, which may indicate he has the interest to move away from India at this important time," the judge said.