Indian celebrity jeweller battles extradition from UK

Indian celebrity jeweller battles extradition from UK

London (AFP) – Nirav Modi, India’s fugitive jeweller to the stars, refused to submit to extradition when he appeared in a London court on Wednesday.

Modi, accused of involvement in a massive bank fraud that rocked India’s corporate community, was arrested in the British capital on Tuesday.

The 48-year-old appeared in custody at Westminster Magistrates Court and was denied bail.

District judge Marie Mallon ruled there was a risk Modi would fail to surrender for future hearings due to his access to a vast fortune which could help him evade the courts, and his “keenness to do so”.

Modi fled India last year after being accused of having a central role in a $1.8-billion fraud involving Punjab National Bank (PNB), the country’s second-largest public lender.

Lawyer Jonathan Swain, appearing on behalf of the Indian authorities, said: “This is a very high level, extended fraud.”

Modi spoke only to confirm his identity and refusal to submit to extradition.

His lawyer George Hepburne Scott said the diamond jeweller had been living in London since June 2018.

“His son was here and had been here for five years at school,” he added.

Modi was living “openly” in Britain, paid local taxes and was trying to obtain a driving licence, the lawyer said.

While in Britain, he has undertaken work for which he was paid £20,000 ($26,400, 23,200 euros) per month, according to Hepburne Scott.

Modi will next appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on March 29 for a case management hearing.

Modi owned luxury jewellery stores in several major cities across the world and boasted celebrity customers including actresses Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas before his downfall last year.

Earlier this month, Indian authorities dynamited the billionaire’s multi-million-dollar seafront mansion.

The 33,000 square-foot (3,000 square metre) property near Mumbai, believed to be worth $14 million, had been seized.

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


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