London: Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, fighting extradition to India on charges over the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case, has been remanded in custody by a UK court until April 15. Also Read - PNB Scam: UK Court Rejects Nirav Modi's Bail Plea For Fifth Time
The 49-year-old, who has been lodged at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest last year, was due to appear via videolink from prison for his regular 28-day call-over hearing on Tuesday but Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London said that the formality was completed last Thursday. Also Read - Nirav Modi's Rolls-Royce Ghost, Diamond Wristwatch, Raja Ravi Varma Painting to be Auctioned
“This case is next listed for a call-over videolink hearing for April 15,” a court official said on Monday. Also Read - PNB Scam: Nirav Modi to be Produced For Remand Hearing in London's Westminster Court
Modi’s legal team and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), representing the Indian government in the extradition proceedings, are scheduled to hold a lawyers-only case management hearing in the case on April 15, with a five-day trial scheduled between May 11 and 15.
Most of the legal cases in the UK are switching to videolink and telephonic options where possible, with all new jury trials suspended amid the social distancing rules in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. All UK prisons have also been issued with health guidance related to the coronavirus outbreak, with strict rules around hand-washing for inmates, staff and visitors.
“The government’s absolute priority is to protect life, and we have robust and flexible plans in place to keep prisoners, staff and the wider public safe based on the latest advice from Public Health England,” said a UK Ministry of Justice spokesperson.
Modi had made a fifth attempt at bail in the High Court earlier this month, which was rejected as the judge ruled that he continued to pose a flight risk.
Justice Ian Dove presided over the bail hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on March 5, during which Modi appeared via videolink from Wandsworth Prison as his legal team offered a package of “stringent” bail measures, including bail security of 4 million pounds, house arrest at his central London luxury apartment with a 24-hour electronic tag as well as a private security guard service and a strictly monitored access to gadgets and telephones.
“My central concern of a risk of absconding are not obviated by the measures presented,” Justice Dove had concluded.
Modi was arrested on March 19, 2019, on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government.
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.