Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, undergoing extradition proceedings in the UK, intends to appeal for bail in the UK High Court after a second bail application was rejected by a lower court in London last week in the USD 1-billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which represents the Indian authorities through the extradition process in the UK courts, said the 48-year-old intends to appeal against Judge Emma Arbuthnot's decision to turn down his bail plea at the end of a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court last Friday on the grounds that there was a "substantial risk he would fail to surrender".
"Nirav Modi intends to appeal his bail decision, but he has not yet submitted the appeal," a CPS spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday.
The diamond merchant, who has been behind bars at HMP Wandsworth in south-west London ever since his first bail application was rejected on March 20, can apply for a High Court bail appeal at any time until his next remand hearing on April 26.
However, his legal team must give the CPS 48 hours' notice and the bail hearing must be listed within 48 hours of the appeal being lodged in the higher court.
"We are not making any comment at this time," Nirav Modi's solicitor Anand Doobay said, in reference to plans for a bail appeal application.
It remains to be seen how Nirav Modi's legal team is able to further bolster the bail application after Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot ruled that 1 million pounds offered as security for bail as well as the offer to meet stringent electronic tag restrictions on their client's movements, "akin to house arrest", were not sufficient to convince her that he did not pose a flight risk.
"This is a case of substantial fraud, with loss to a bank in India of between USD 1-2 billion. I am not persuaded that the conditional bail sought will meet the concerns of the government of India in this case," the judge noted.
The court was told that Nirav Modi's son, who had been at a school in London, had now left for higher studies in the US, which led the judge to conclude that Nirav Modi not only had a "lack of community ties" in the UK but also large resources at his disposal to try and flee the country.
Nirav Modi's attempt to acquire the citizenship of Vanuatu in late 2017 also went against him as the judge said it seemed like he was trying to "move away from India at an important time".
Clare Montgomery, Nirav Modi's barrister, had made a series of offers to try and convince the judge to grant bail, even bringing up his pet dog.
"He did have a son at Charterhouse (school in London) who has now gone to a university in the States and as a sign of ageing parents, led Mr Modi to get a dog instead. None of these actions are emblematic of someone setting out to flee the country," Montgomery had claimed.
"It is nonsense to say that he is a flight risk. He does not have a safe haven open to him and he has not travelled or applied for citizenship elsewhere...he only qualifies for leave to remain in this country," she said.
CPS barrister Toby Cadman told the judge that there was a "substantial risk" that the prime accused in the PNB fraud case, "of an a
mount between USD 1 and 2 billion", would flee and attempt to interfere with witnesses and evidence.
Judge Arbuthnot accepted the Indian government's arguments, noting the "very unusual" evidence she had seen at this early stage in the case of interference with witnesses and destruction of evidence in the form of mobile phones and a server.
The court was told that Nirav 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.