How Long Can Fugitives Nirav Modi And Mehul Choksi Delay The Inevitable – Extradition To India ?

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Nirav Modi, the fugitive diamond merchant wanted in India, suffered yet another setback in his legal battle against his extradition when the High Court in London denied him permission to appeal against his extradition order in the UK Supreme Court. Modi is wanted for trial on fraud and money laundering charges.

The judgment pronounced at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay ruled that “the Appellant’s (Nirav Modi) application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court is refused”.

In a fast paced ruling within just over a week of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) submitting its response to the 51-year-old diamantaire’s permission to appeal application on behalf of the Indian government, the judges also ruled that the “certification of a point of law be refused” that would have allowed his plea to progress to the higher court. This refusal significantly limits Modi’s remaining legal options in the UK against extradition to India.

Last month, the 51-year-old diamantaire lost an appeal on mental health grounds when the same two-judge High Court bench ruled that his risk of suicide is not such that it would be either unjust or oppressive to extradite him to India to face charges in the estimated $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam case. Modi, meanwhile, remains behind bars at Wandsworth Prison in London since his arrest on an extradition warrant in March 2019.

Meanwhile, in yet another case related to Mehul Choksi, three fresh FIRs have been filed by the CBI against the absconding diamantaire on the basis of a complaint from the Punjab National Bank (PNB), bringing to light an additional loss of Rs 6,746 crore incurred by it.

Four years after Choksi’s dramatic escape and the failure of the state-run PNB to detect the scam between 2010 and 2018, the bank submitted three complaints to the CBI on March 21, reporting the additional loss caused by the diamantaire and his firm Gitanjali Gems Limited, Nakshatra Brands Limited and Gili India Limited.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed the cases against Choksi, who has taken refuge in Antigua and Barbuda after his escape from India in January 2018.

The first CBI FIR pertains to an alleged fraud of Rs 5,564.54 crore between 2010 and 2018 perpetrated by Choksi, Gitanjali Gems Limited and its senior executives on a consortium of 28 banks led by the ICICI, the officials said.

In a statement, the PNB officials allege, “It appears that in the account of Gitanjali Gems Limited, fraudulent activities were done by Mehul Choksi in connivance with its director Dhanesh Vrajlal Sheth, joint president (finance) Kapil Mali Ram Khandelwal, CFO Chandrakant Kanu Karkare and others to enrich themselves illegally and derive unlawful and unjust gains and thereby, causing a loss to the member banks of the consortium and in furtherance thereof, have cheated/defrauded the consortium member banks to the tune of Rs 5,564.54 crore.”

The second FIR pertains to alleged cheating of Rs 807 crore by Choksi, Nakshatra Brands Limited and others during the period, involving a consortium of nine banks led by the PNB and the third FIR pertains to an alleged fraud worth Rs 375 crore committed by Choksi and Gili India Limited on the PNB during the same period.

Choksi and Modi had allegedly pulled off the biggest banking scam of recent times by availing loans from foreign banks using letters of undertaking, a kind of bank guarantee, from the PNB and have managed to stay at large till date!

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