PNB Fraud Case: UK Court Gets Virtual Tour of Indian Jail

Nirav Modi’s defence team has also raised concerns about his “deteriorating” mental health in Wandsworth.

Updated
India
3 min read
Nirav Modi is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of over Rs 13,700 crore.
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A new video of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, where fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi is expected to be held if his extradition comes through, was played on Monday, 7 September, for the UK court hearing Modi’s extradition case.

The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), appearing for the Indian authorities, played the video and also shared some information about the COVID-19 testing and a few other related measures for the inmates and staff of the jail, reported PTI.

According to PTI, CPS barrister Helen Malcolm informed Westminster Magistrates' Court in London that the video proves that the prison conditions pose no risk of breaching the UK's Article 3 obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The video further confirmed, through a voice over, that it was shot without any artificial light.

“It was thought appropriate to present a more up-to-date video of Barrack 12, which proves there is no risk of a breach of Article 3.”   
Helen Malcolm   

Along with “adequate amenities and infrastructure” including light, ventilation, and space for strolls and exercise, the barrack was also shown to have an attached bathroom with a curtain for privacy, three ceiling fans, six tubelights and an LED TV.

According to PTI, the CPS informed the court that the barrack, at the moment, was unoccupied, but even if it were to fill in, it would still be “infinitely spacious”.

PTI also reports that Modi’s defence team may be intending to challenge India’s prison conditions to establish that they are not upto the standards of UK’s human rights requirements.

UK Court Rejects Request for Press Blackout

In the first of the five-day trial, the London judge Samuel Mark Goozee also rejected Modi’s request of a press blackout on evidence by former Bombay High Court judge Abhay Thipsay.

Judge Thipsay is slated to act as Modi’s witness in the five-day trial.

Seeking the press blackout, Modi’s lawyer Claire Montgomery QC, according to IANS, asserted that Thipsay had been subjected to vile allegations after he gave evidence during the first phase of hearings in May.

Further, according to IANS, Montgomery requested district judge Samuel Mark Goozee for Thipsay's proof to be heard by the courtroom in person or for the reporting to be postponed until the "sting is out of the story".
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However, District Judge Goozee said that Justice Thipsay had himself engaged with the media in response to the controversy.

Formerly, in May, a day after Thipsay gave evidence as a witness for Nirav Modi at his first hearing and said that the charges levelled by the CBI against Modi – specifically dishonest and legal conspiracy – would not stand under Indian law, Union Minister Hari Shankar Prasad held a press conference and alleged that Thipsay was working for the Congress party to save Modi.

District Judge Gooze, however, according to IANS, said that this “did not amount to the exceptional circumstances required to make it personal and there was no proof it could give rise to substantial threat of prejudice to the course of justice.”

Gooze further said: "I don't concern myself about political commentary in India."

Background

Modi has been lodged at the Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest in March 2019.

The second phase of the hearing is expected to complete arguments on establishing a prima facie case against him and also deal with the additional extradition request made by the Indian authorities and certified by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier this year, reported IANS.

He faces additional charges of “causing the disappearance of evidence” and intimidating witnesses or “criminal intimidation to cause death” against him.

Additional hearings have also been scheduled for 3 November, for the judge to rule on the admissibility of evidence presented before him

Both sides are expected to make their final submissions on 1 December, according to IANS.

Modi's defence team has also reportedly raised concerns about his "deteriorating" mental health in Wandsworth, which is one of England's most overcrowded prisons, among a number of "additional issues".

The charges against the fugitive merchant centre around his firm Diamonds R Us, Stellar Diamonds, and Solar Exports making fraudulent use of a credit facility offered by the Punjab National Bank (PNB), known as “letters of undertaking” (LoUs).

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian authorities, sought to establish that a number of PNB staff conspired with Nirav Modi to ensure LoUs, reported IANS.

The letters of undertaking (LoUs) were reportedly issued to his companies without required credit checks, without recording the issuance of the LoUs, and without charging the required commission upon the transactions, resulting in a fraud amounting to nearly $2 billion.

(With inputs from PTI and IANS.)

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