Nirav Modi does possess means to flee UK, says judge during diamond merchant's bail plea hearing

London, London, Great Britain (UK)Updated: Jun 11, 2019, 07:41 PM IST

File photo: Nirav Modi. Photograph:(AP)

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Modi has already been denied bail at three previous attempts at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London

A judge in the UK court said on Tuesday that Nirav Modi does possess the "means" to flee the UK while hearing fugitive diamond merchant's appeal against a lower court's order to deny him bail. Modi is fighting his extradition from Britain to India in the nearly US $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case.

"The reality is that he is not the cold-blooded hardened criminal as claimed by the government of India but a jewellery designer from a long line of diamond dealers, and regarded as being honest careful and reliable," said Clare Montgomery, Modi's barrister, as she opened the arguments in the hearing.

But Judge Ingrid Simler intervened to indicate that she has noted that Modi does possess the "means" to flee the UK and that factor must be a feature in a case involving "such sizeable funds".

She is expected to give her ruling in the matter later on Tuesday after hearing all the arguments presented by Modi's legal team and the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), on behalf of the Indian government.

Modi has already been denied bail at three previous attempts at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, as the judge ruled there was "substantial risk" that he would fail to surrender and deemed the bail security offered as insufficient.

Modi, who has remained behind bars in judicial custody since his arrest in March, had the automatic right to file an application in the higher court and did not require permission to appeal.

His legal team has described their client's experience at Wandsworth prison in south-west London as "damaging" and had offered stringent electronic tag and other conditions akin to house arrest at his posh Centrepoint apartment in the West End of London in an attempt to persuade the judge to grant bail.

At the first case management hearing in the case at Westminster Magistrates' Court last month, the issue of bail was not raised and Modi was further remanded in judicial custody until June 27, when he is scheduled to appear via videolink.

At the hearing on May 30, Judge Arbuthnot directed the Indian government to confirm which prison Modi is to be held in if he were to be extradited to India, setting a 14-day deadline for a confirmation of the prison plans in India. Arbuthnot had ordered the extradition of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya in December 2018.

Meanwhile, authorities at the Arthur Road jail in India's financial capital Mumbai have kept 'Barrack No. 12' ready if Modi is extradited from the UK.

The prisons department last week shared information with the state Home department about the status of the Arthur Road prison and facilities that can be provided there, in case Modi is to be lodged in the barrack, a Home department official said.