Nirav Modi (Photo Credit: File Photo)
A UK court has rejected the bail plea of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi on Thursday for the fifth time. Modi has been fighting his extradition to India on charges over the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case. Modi, who has been lodged at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest in March last year and is scheduled for an extradition trial in May, made his fifth attempt at getting bail on the basis of a change in circumstances.
The 42-year-old had already appealed to the High Court last year and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian government, said it will be arguing that the latest application should be heard at Westminster Magistrates' Court level.
"We think it should be heard at Westminster Magistrates' Court and will be making that point," a CPS spokesperson said. "The bail application is regarding a change of circumstances. Modi has increased the security and offered more stringent bail conditions than last time," the spokesperson said.
Last week, Modi appeared via videolink from his prison before Judge David Robinson at the Westminster Magistrates' Court for his routine 28-day call-over remand hearing and was remanded in custody to appear again via videolink on March 24.
He has made three previous attempts for bail at the magistrates' court offering 2 million pounds and then doubling that to 4 million pounds as security, rejected each time over fears that he would flee the country and fail to surrender before the court.
Meanwhile, the Royal Courts of Justice in London will hear his latest bail application and consider if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the previous appeal before the same court in June last year. During the last High Court bail plea, Justice Ingrid Simler had concurred with Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot to conclude that there are "substantial grounds? to believe that the diamond merchant would fail to surrender as he does possess the means to abscond.
She had also found strong evidence to suggest there had been interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the case and concluded it can still occur.
There are still places in the world one can escape to, which are an even safer haven from the Indian investigating authorities,? she said, countering Modi's lawyers' assertion that he did not have any incentive to flee the UK as he sees it as a safe haven of justice.
During the previous bail hearings, Modi's legal team has highlighted the unliveable circumstances of his prison and also raised concerns for his mental health.
Judge Arbuthnot presided over the last application in November last year, when his legal team had offered the court an ?unprecedented bail package?, including house arrest conditions akin to those imposed on terrorist suspects, just so he could be out of what is one of England's most overcrowded prisons.