Indian jeweller Nirav Modi wins right to fight extradition on mental health grounds

Fugitive wanted over alleged role in $1.8bn bank fraud in his homeland

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)

Fugitive Indian jeweller Nirav Modi will be allowed to appeal on mental health grounds against his extradition from the UK to face charges of embezzling $1.8 billion from a state-owned bank, London’s High Court has ruled.

Mr Modi, 50, known as the jeweller to the stars for his work dressing celebrities from Bollywood and Hollywood, was told in February he would have to return to stand trial in India, a move approved by British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

He fled his homeland two years earlier because of the police investigation into his dealings. Mr Modi is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank, money laundering, witness intimidation and destroying evidence.

Judge Martin Chamberlain on Monday said any appeal would be likely to examine whether the decision to extradite was correct given evidence in court about Mr Modi’s depression, his risk of suicide and the ability of Indian authorities to prevent any attempt.

Mr Chamberlain said in his judgment that “the question for me is simply whether the appellant's case on these grounds is reasonably arguable. In my judgment, it is.”

Mr Modi has been held in London’s Wandsworth prison since his arrest in 2019 after he was tracked to his luxury apartment by newspaper reporters.

His health has been examined in prison. A psychiatrist called by Mr Modi’s legal team said Mr Modi posed "a substantial, albeit not immediate, risk of suicide", while another expert argued that the prison in which he would be held in Mumbai “struggles to provide proper psychological care for inmates”.

Mr Modi is one of a number of high-profile Indian businessmen being sought by Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, in an effort to tackle high-level crime. Three decades of extradition efforts have resulted in only three people returning to face justice.

Both Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, the brewing and aircraft tycoon, face extradition in a sign of growing political pressure to retrieve the country’s highest-profile fugitives. Mr Mallya was declared bankrupt while fighting his extradition in London.

An attempt in January by the US government to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange from the UK to face espionage charges failed, as a judge ruled he was a serious suicide risk if he were transferred. Washington has challenged the decision.

Updated: August 10th 2021, 8:08 AM
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