Detained Indian tycoon ‘attacked’ in UK jail

Lawyers for wanted diamond dealer Nirav Modi failed in their latest attempt to secure bail

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)

The detained diamond tycoon Nirav Modi has been attacked in his prison cell as he fights again a return to India to stand trial over the country’s largest banking fraud, according to a report on Thursday.

Modi was kicked and punched in the face by two other inmates as part of an extortion attempt when they learned that he was a wealthy diamond dealer, the Daily Telegraph reported. His barrister, Hugo Keith, was reported as saying that it followed two other attacks inside the London jail.

Details of the attack emerged at a court hearing as Mr Modi’s legal team made its fourth attempt to secure his release on £4 million bail from prison as he fights extradition. The 48-year-old was arrested in March this year after the newspaper tracked him down to a central London apartment.

He had been on the run for 15 months after he and his uncle were accused of fraudulently securing guarantees from the bank that were then used to obtain loans from abroad.

Previous efforts to secure bail from the grim Wandsworth jail have failed because of concerns that he would interfere with witnesses connected to the multi-billionaire fraud case. He is accused of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering at India’ state-run Punjab National Bank. He has denied wrongdoing.

An earlier hearing heard that Mr Modi’s US-based brother had travelled abroad to meet with directors of the detained man’s companies and destroyed their mobile phones. Mr Modi’s legal team that this was to stop them being tracked by authorities rather than to destroy evidence.

His lawyers said on Wednesday that Mr Modi’s mental health was worsening as he was held for 22 hours a day in a cell.

A court official confirmed on Thursday that bail had been refused. Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot reportedly said that she was not convinced that Mr Modi would not flee or try to contact witnesses before the extradition hearing in May next year.

The cell at Wandsworth jail is a far-cry from Mr Modi’s former celebrity-studded life when he owned a chain of luxury stores and kitted out actors such as Naomi Watts, Priyanka Chopra-Jonas and Kate Winslet.

Forbes estimated Mr Modi’s wealth at $1.73 billion before the alleged fraud, putting him at 85th on India’s rich list.