On Tuesday, the defence team of dimanataire Nirav Modi challenged the grounds on which India has sought his extradition to face charges of major financial offences, insisting that there is no prima facie case against him, besides raising the issue of risk to his human rights in a Mumbai jail.
Under the UK-India extradition treaty, the country requesting the extradition needs to establish in UK court that there is a prima facie case against the person – not a conviction – based on charges that would amount to offences in law in both countries.
Claire Montgomery, who appeared for businessman Vijay Mallya in his extradition case, set out broadly similar objections to Modi’s extradition on the second day of the five-day extradition trial in the Westminster Magistrates Court.
The objections claimed include lack of a prima facie case against Modi, risk to his human rights in the Arthur Road jail, and the claim that he may not receive a fair trial if extradited. Modi appeared in court via video-link from the Wandsworth jail.
According to her, the “incompetence” of the Punjab National Bank was responsible for the ways in which credit and loans were extended to Modi and his companies. She quoted extensively from bank documents from 2004, and at one stage accused PNB of misleading the Reserve Bank of India on lending.
Raising objections to documents submitted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer Helen Malcolm, Montgomery claimed that many are inadmissible in court, she told judge Samuel Mark Goozee. There is “no underlying evidence” in India’s case, she added.
The sovereign assurance given by the ministry of home affairs that Modi’s human rights would be protected in the Mumbai jail, she said, is “inadequate”, raising concerns about over-crowding, conditions, availability of medical facilities, and reminding the court that Modi faced “serious mental health issues.”
Malcolm told the court on Monday that loans and credit were obtained by Modi and his companies fraudulently and when the fraud was discovered, Modi allegedly began a campaign to intimidate witnesses. Mobile phones and a server were destroyed, she said.
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Malcolm named bank officials and cited documents to recount Modi’s alleged laundering of money and transfer of funds through accounts of members of his family, entities and properties in various countries, including in the United States.
According to the CBI, Modi, brother Nehal Modi and two business associates tried to threaten witnesses and destroy evidence, which came to light after nine employees submitted details of how Modi and others took them to Cairo against their will, offered bribes and threatened them.
Modi’s defence team is due to present witnesses, including expert on prisons Alan Mitchell, who also appeared in the Mallya case.