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Nirav Modi can be extradited to India, rules UK court

Nirav Modi. Home bound finally (IANS)

In a major setback to rogue jeweller Nirav Modi, a UK court on Thursday ordered his extradition in connection with the Rs 14,000 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.

Samuel Goozee, District Judge at the Westminster Magistrates' Court, accepted the prima facie evidence against Modi for fraud and money laundering.  He said: "I am satisfied again that there is evidence he could be convicted." The judge added that there is no evidence that suggests that Modi will not get justice if sent back to India.

‘Mumbai jail better than London cell’

In another significant observation regarding jail conditions in India, the court said: "Conditions in Barack 12 (at the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai) look far better than his current cell in London."

The judge made this observation about conditions in Indian prisons as the defendant had argued that he can't be extradited to India due to his worsening mental health because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the poor conditions in Indian prisons.

Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are accused of submitting fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) through which they were able to take loans worth Rs 13,600 crore from the Punjab National Bank (PNB). Both escaped India in January 2018 before the scam was discovered.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the UK argued on behalf of Indian authorities and proved that some of the PNB staff conspired with Modi to carry out the fraud. The LoUs were issued to his companies without the required credit checks and without charging the mandatory commission.

An embarrassed Indian government moved UK courts once Modi's presence was confirmed in British capital London. He was subsequently arrested on an extradition warrant in March 2019.

The charges against Modi include money laundering, conspiring to destroy evidence and intimidating witnesses. The case also involves his numerous firms.

Spotlight on Vijay Mallya

With the legal proceedings over, the court ruling will be sent to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for a sign-off. Depending on the outcome, appeals may be made in the high court by either side.

While today's order takes Nirav Modi a step closer to extradition, it may take months yet to wade through appeals, as it has been seen in the case of another high-profile accused, liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

However, sources say that the outcome of the Nirav Modi case will have a bearing on the Vijay Mallya's case as well. Liquor baron Mallya too has made London his hideout after fleeing India without returning huge loans taken from banks.