London: Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, wanted in India in connection with the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) money laundering case, is set to appear before a UK court for his customary 28-day remand hearing on Thursday.
The 48-year-old is likely to be informed of the dates for his trial on the extradition charges brought by the Indian government, being represented at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London by the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Modi has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in south-west London since his arrest in March on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had presided over the last remand hearing at the court via videolink from the prison where Modi is being held, during which she had indicated that the dates for an estimated five-day trial would be mutually agreed by both sides soon.
As per the timelines discussed during the brief hearing, the judge said she expected to receive all the evidence and skeleton argument bundles in the case by April 8, with a five-day hearing then expected to be slotted in May next year.
There are likely to be a number of case management hearings ahead of that but meanwhile a planned case management hearing for next Monday was vacated as not required.
Under the UK's law, Modi is expected to be produced before the court every four weeks. Modi has previously had his bail rejected multiple times, the fourth and final time being by the UK High Court last month. In her judgment handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Justice Ingrid Simler had concluded there were “substantial grounds” to believe that Modi would fail to surrender as he does possess the means to “abscond”.
Reiterating similar concerns as those previously raised by Westminster Magistrates' Court during earlier bail attempts, Judge Simler ruled that after considering all the material "carefully", she had found strong evidence to suggest there had been interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the case and concluded it can still occur.
"The applicant has access to considerable financial resources, supported by an increased [bail bond security] offer of 2 million pounds," the judge noted.
The High Court judge stressed that while it was not for her to take a "definitive view" on the evidence, she had proceeded on the basis that the government of India has acted in good faith in what is “undoubtedly” a serious case and a “sophisticated international conspiracy” to defraud, together with money laundering.
Modi was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers on an extradition warrant on March 19 and has been in prison since. During subsequent hearings, Westminster Magistrates' Court was told that Modi was the "principal beneficiary" of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.