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Nirav Modi: London court sets March 29 as next date of hearing; BJP supporters celebrate arrest

Nirav Modi, the main accused in the Rs 13,000-crore PNB scam case, has been arrested in London, Scotland Yard said, in a major boost to India’s efforts to bring back the fugitive diamantaire

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NH Web Desk

Nirav Modi, the main accused in the Rs 13,000-crore PNB scam case, has been asked to be appear again in court on March 29 by a Westminster Magistrates' Court, hours after he was arrested by Scotland Yard on Wednesday.

News reports coming out of London’s court said that the fugitive businessman refused consent to being extradited to India. According to ANI, the next hearing in the case has been scheduled for March 29 in the morning.

Scotland Yard had said that Modi was arrested on request of the Modi government, even as opposition leaders saw ulterior political motives on part of the PM and the BJP in trying to get Nirav Modi back just ahead of the elections.

"Nirav Deepak Modi, (Date of Birth 24.02.71), was arrested on behalf of the Indian Authorities on Tuesday, 19 March, in Holborn," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

The arrest and subsequent bail of Modi came days after a London court issued an arrest warrant against him in response to a request by the Enforcement Directorate for his extradition in a money laundering case.

The location of the arrest indicates that Nirav Modi, wanted in India in connection with the ₹13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam case, was arrested from where he is believed to have been living in a plush apartment in Centre Point in the West End.

Nirav Modi not coming back to India as yet

Meanwhile, it could probably be a long time before absconding Mumbai diamantaire would actually face the extradition process initiated by the Indian government, a top British law expert said on Wednesday.

Modi was held after a UK court executed an arrest warrant issued against him by the Westminster Court on March 13, which was described as "a major victory" by India.

Last week, Indians were stunned to see a carefree Modi, sporting an Ostrich leather jacket, strutting around in London without worries as Indian agencies moved heaven and earth to trace his whereabouts.

The news of the arrest sent ripples of excitement through the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which dared the opposition Congress to question the developments, at the height of the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Backers of the current government were quick to jump the gun after Nirav Modi’s arrest, many crediting the detention to the PM Modi.

Sarosh Zaiwalla, Founder-Senior Partner at Zaiwalla & Co. LLP, UK said that issuing the arrest warrant is a first step of the legal process to extradite Modi - among the prime accused along with his uncle Mehul Choksi and others - in the 2018 Rs.13,500-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.

"The arrest warrant clearly implies that the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the conduct described in the request is an aextradition offence. However, as per protocol, Scotland Yard will not address extradition requests until and unless the accused (Modi) has been arrested/presented before the court," Zaiwalla said.

There is also a time-frame attacked to a warrant - as they do not last forever. So the UK police have upto three months arrest a person - in this case, Modi - after the warrant is issued, the legal luminary told IANS in a brief analysis of the scenario shortly after Modi's arrest.

The 48-year-old's arrest would lead to him being produced before a District Judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London to be formally charged, following which he is expected to seek bail.

The case will then follow a similar pattern through the UK courts as that of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, who remains on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April 2017 on fraud and money laundering charges.

The 63-year-old businessman has since filed an application seeking leave to appeal against his extradition ordered by UK home secretary Sajid Javid last month.

Javid had certified India's extradition request for Nirav Modi earlier this month, triggering the legal process in the courts, kick-started with the issuance of a warrant.

News of the certification of India's request came just as Modi was tracked down to a three-bedroom flat in the Centre Point tower block of luxury apartments in the West End of London.

He is believed to have arrived in London last year and was able to travel in and out of Britain at least four times since his passport was cancelled by the Indian authorities in February 2018.

During some of his stay in London he was reportedly also living in the heart of the city above his jewellery boutique called “Nirav Modi” on Old Bond Street, which has since closed down.

Modi is now believed to be running a new business, which describes itself on the UK's Companies House register as a wholesale trader in watches and jewellery and a retailer of watches and jewellery in specialised stores.

Modi and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, are the main accused in the PNB scam and they both left India before the details of the fraud came to light in January 2018.

(with agency inputs)

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