Diamond trader Nirav Modi loses fight in UK against extradition to India

Modi is accused of involvement in a $1.8 billion bank fraud

MUMBAI, INDIA - AUGUST 9: Luxury diamond jewellery designer and founder and creative director of the Nirav Modi chain of diamond jewellery retail stores Nirav Modi at his office in Lower Parel, on August 9, 2016 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint via Getty Images)
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Diamond tycoon Nirav Modi has lost his bid to avoid extradition to India from Britain to face allegations of involvement in a $1.8 billion bank fraud.

District Judge Samuel Goozee ruled in London on Thursday that the jeweller has a case to answer before the Indian courts.

Mr Modi, whose jewels once adorned stars from Bollywood to Hollywood, has been held in London's Wandsworth Prison as he battled extradition to India.

"I do not accept that Nirav Modi was involved in legitimate business. I find no genuine transactions and believe there is a process of dishonesty," the judge said.

"Many of these are a matter for trial in India. I am satisfied again that there is evidence he could be convicted. Prima facie there is a case of money laundering."

The 49-year-old appeared via video link from prison at Westminster Magistrates Court.

"The case has now been sent to the Secretary of State for a decision on whether or not to extradite him to India," Westminster Magistrates Court told The National.

He has 14 days to appeal the judge's decision.

Judge Goozee dismissed Mr Modi’s argument that he would not be treated fairly in India.

Mr Modi has refused to submit to extradition to India and denies the fraud allegations. He had sought political asylum in the UK.

Indian authorities have sought Mr Modi’s arrest since February 2018, when they alleged companies he controlled defrauded the state-owned Punjab National Bank by using fake financial documents to get loans to buy and import jewels.

The extradition matter now goes to the UK's Home Secretary Priti Patel for a final decision.

Last year, Indian authorities seized diamonds, pearls and silver worth millions of dollars belonging to the gem trader.

The valuables, worth 13.5 billion rupees ($177 million), had been kept in a warehouse in Hong Kong after being moved there from Dubai in 2018, India’s Enforcement Directorate, which investigates financial crimes, said.