LONDON: Diamond tycoon Nirav Modi lost his bid Thursday to avoid extradition from Britain to India to face allegations he was involved in a $1.8 billion bank fraud.
District Judge Samuel Goozee ruled in London that the fugitive jeweler has a case to answer before the Indian courts. Modi, whose jewels once adorned stars from Bollywood to Hollywood, has been held without bail in London since he was arrested in the capital in 2019.
Goozee ruled that there was enough evidence to prosecute him in his homeland, and dismissed Modi’s argument that he would not be treated fairly in India.
Indian authorities have sought Modi’s arrest since February 2018, when they alleged companies he controlled defrauded the state-owned Punjab National Bank by using fake financial documents to get loans to buy and import jewels.
Modi is also accused of witness intimidation and destroying evidence. Police in India later raided the homes and offices of Modi and business partner Mehul Choksi, seizing nearly $800 million in jewels and gold.
Modi, 49, has refused to submit to extradition to India and denies the fraud allegations. He sought political asylum in the UK
The extradition matter now goes to the UK Home Office, which will make the final decision. Modi has 14 days from that decision to appeal.
Modi, who wore a dark suit for Thursday’s hearing, showed little emotion as he appeared by video link from Wandsworth Prison in southwest London.
Amit Malviya, a spokesman for India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, said Thursday’s ruling was “a shot in the arm for the agencies pursuing the fugitive,” adding that the Indian government is committed to “bring all economic offenders to book.”
The son of a diamond merchant, Modi built an international jewelry empire that stretched from India to New York and Hong Kong. Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra became the face of his eponymous brand and Hollywood actress Naomi Watts appeared with Modi at the opening of his first US boutique in 2015.
Forbes magazine estimated Modi’s wealth at $1.8 billion in 2017, but he was removed from the publication’s billionaires’ list after the fraud allegations.