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Remanded till March 29, NiMo spends Holi in overcrowded jail Was Opening A/C In London Bank When Held

March 22, 2019 06:03 AM

courtesy   TOI MARCH 22

Remanded till March 29, NiMo spends Holi in overcrowded jail
Was Opening A/C In London Bank When Held
Naomi Canton & AGENCIES


Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, arrested here on fraud and money-laundering charges, spent Holi on Thursday behind bars in one of England’s most overcrowded jails.

He landed in Her Majesty’s Prison Wandsworth in south--west London after a court on Wednesday rejected his bail application, terming him a flight risk, and remanded him to custody till March 29. He was arrested a day earlier from a London bank while he was trying to open an account.

While Nirav would have hoped to be held in a separate cell, the overcrowding may mean that he had to share one with another of the jail’s around 1,430 male prisoners. Cells designed for one prisoner are often occupied by two, with poorly-screened lavatories, an inspection of Wandsworth in 2018 had said.

Jail full of men with drug or mental health problems

Nirav appeared in the Westminster magistrates’ court on Wednesday after spending a night in a police cell after his arrest on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and to conceal criminal property.

District judge Marie Mallon remanded him in custody till March 29, when he will appear for a preliminary hearing before chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, the same judge who oversaw the Vijay Mallya trial. The arrest clears the way for India to start its effort to get the fugitive diamantaire back home and face the law.

Nirav arrived in court from the police cells in black trousers, a white shirt, and black slip-on suede shoes with gold buckles and sat in the dock clutching a bunch of papers. A police officer sat next to him. When asked if he consented to extradition, he replied clearly: “I do not consent.” He looked at times relaxed, at times overwhelmed. He stood to confirm his date of birth and his address of 42, Centre Point Residences.

George Hepburne Scott, extradition barrister representing Nirav, put forward an application for bail of £500,000 (Rs 4.5 crore) and proposed his client could report to his local police station. “He has done everything he can to be visible to demonstrate his keenness to fully cooperate,” said Scott. “He is paying his council tax and has a National Insurance number and he is living openly. He was even written to by the electoral services inviting him to register to vote so officials were fully aware of his address. He has lived at Centre Point over a year. He is the opposite of a flight risk.”

Jonathan Swain, the barrister representing the Crown Prosecution Service, on behalf of the Government of India, said Nirav had been asked to appear in court in India on three dates in February 2018. “He corresponded by email to say he was aware of the case but out of the country and he has not returned to India since… We have substantial grounds to believe he will fail to surrender.”

Mallon, who had begun the hearing saying she knew nothing about the case, said: “I have taken into account his cooperation and willingness but this is an exceedingly high-value crime, and you do have access to means to escape and the fact you have every incentive to do so, I feel, are substantial grounds you will fail to surrender if released on bail.”

Swain said the charges related to partnerships, between Diamonds ‘R’ US, Stellar Diamonds and Solar Exports, and the “fraudulent issuing of LoUs (letters of undertaking) in respect of PNB worth a total of £1.2 billion”. He said “various entities were involved in money laundering but these were all controlled by Nirav who was a partner in the firms”.

The living conditions at Wandsworth will be in stark contrast to the luxury apartment in West End where Nirav had been living. During an inspection in 2018, the Victorian-era jail was found by UK Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke to be “one of the most overcrowded in England and Wales” and filled with many men with drug or mental health problems. It found that no staff would enter a cell alone, even if a prisoner’s life was in danger and inmates were allowed “far too little” time out of their cells.

Nirav’s lawyer Scott said he arrived in the UK before any criminal complaints were made in India. His son has been in school here for five years and Nirav is here lawfully. He came in January 2018 because of an “imminent IPO” of his business here. “The brand HQ was going to be in London. When he heard there was a criminal complaint, he immediately engaged lawyers in the UK.”

Scott added: “They claim he obtained them (credit facilities) fraudulently and he strongly contests these allegations… He will argue these are politically motivated allegations, that prison conditions in India will breach his human rights and he will not get a fair trial in India.” Vijay Mallya had argued similarly. Scott said Nirav “worked for Diamond Holdings and earned £20,000 (about Rs 18 lakh) a month.” The court heard that Nirav has residence permits and ID cards for the UAE, Singapore and Hong Kong, most of which have expired

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