Nirav Modi could be extradited within 28 days, loses all UK legal options

LONDON: Fugitive diamond billionaire Nirav Modi lost all legal options in British courts on Thursday and could be extradited to India within 28 days – unless he is able to obtain an emergency injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) or if he has applied for British asylum.
Inside an empty courtroom at 10:00 GMT, with no lawyer and only four reporters present, a London High Court judge rejected Nirav’s application to appeal his extradition to India in the Supreme Court, the only British court he had left to turn to.
His extradition could end a riveting drama since he fled India after Punjab National Bank (PNB) accused him of defrauding him of Rs 6,498 crore in January 2018 and he kept a low profile until British newspaper ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported in March 2019 that the refugee lived a good life in London. He was seen wearing a Rs 11 lakh black ostrich jacket and living in a Rs 74 crore apartment.
He was arrested soon after while trying to open a bank account and has been in custody in the UK ever since. India had made three extradition requests to Britain related to as many criminal cases he is facing in the country.
The first, brought by the CBI, pertains to his alleged PNB fraud. The second, brought by the ED, is associated with money laundering of the proceeds of this scam. The third is in relation to additional offenses involving tampering with evidence and witnesses in CBI proceedings.
Lord Justice Stuart-Smith refused Nirav leave to appeal in the SC, in line with a Supreme Court decision handed down on 9 November. In that decision, the HC dismissed Nirav’s appeal against the lower court which had found that there were no obstacles to his extradition.
The lower court had referred his case to the UK Home Secretary, who had ordered his extradition on April 15, 2021.
Stuart-Smith also denied his application for certification of a matter of law of general public importance. This means that he cannot apply for permission to appeal directly to the SC.
The judge also ordered Nirav to pay Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) legal costs of Rs 152 lakh for his cases in the High Court (where his appeal was heard) and in Westminster Magistrates’ Court (where his main extradition hearing took place). CPS represented the Indian government in the proceedings.
Extradition lawyer Toby Cadman said Nirav has exhausted all legal appeals in UK courts. “His only option is to seek a Rule 39 injunction from the ECHR and he must act quickly now as his removal is likely to be ordered within the statutory time limits,” he said.
Any application under Rule 39 to the ECHR must be made within four months of the final decision, and the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg had not yet heard from Nirav.
“The threshold for intervention is quite high and there are real questions as to whether he will be granted interim measures as I don’t think his case is strong enough to warrant intervention,” Cadman said.
Another option is asylum in the UK. “I think that Nirav Modi will probably have applied for asylum and if he has, it will prevent his extradition until that is concluded. It’s the last roll of the dice. This matter is confidential. The Home Office will never confirm or deny whether an application was submitted or considered,” Cadman said.
The point of law that Nirav had sought to have certified was the ‘Turner test’, which is the test used to judge whether it would be oppressive to extradite a suicidal person.
“Only a small percentage of extradition cases ever reach the Supreme Court. There is a long tradition of how courts look at the risk of suicide in extradition cases, and a person must not be able to resist taking their own life to be considered oppressive to extradite them. If the judges had agreed to lower that threshold, it could open the floodgates, Cadman said.

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