The judgment in the extradition trial of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi over the nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case will be handed down in the UK after December 1.
At a scheduled hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in London yesterday, District Judge Samuel Goozee agreed the timetable for the second leg of Modi’s extradition trial scheduled between September 7 and 11.
The hearings next month will complete arguments on establishing a prima facie case against 49-year-old Modi and also deal with the additional extradition request, made by the Indian authorities and certified by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier this year, which add on the charges of "causing the disappearance of evidence" and intimidating witnesses or “criminal intimidation to cause death" against him.
Additional hearings have also been scheduled for November 3, for the judge to rule on the admissibility of evidence presented before him, and December 1, when both sides will make their final submissions.
Any judgment in the case is now expected only after the final hearing in December.
During the course of the hearing, Modi’s lawyers also raised concerns over allegations of “party political bias" against one of their expert witnesses from India.
Modi’s barrister Clare Montgomery told Justice Goozee that after Retired Justice Abhay Thipsay had given his witness statement on the concept of “criminal breach of trust" in Indian law during the first leg of the extradition trial in May, he came under attack and was accused of political bias.
“We may have to put in an application for reporting restrictions around the reporting of his [Thipsay] evidence to avoid further public commentary on it," said Montgomery, indicating that the retired Indian high court judge will be among the witnesses for the second leg of Modi’s trial scheduled to begin from September 7.
Asked by Goozee for the reason behind such an application, Modi’s barrister said the “Indian ministry of justice" held a press conference “attacking" Thipsay for the evidence he had given in the UK court and accused him of “party political bias".
During the hearing in May, Retd Justice Thipsay appeared via videolink from India as a legal expert to back Modi’s defence team’s efforts to try and highlight legal flaws in the government of India’s case.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian authorities, had countered his witness statement and later in India, Thipsay, a former judge of the high court in Mumbai and Allahabad, had been accused of acting on the behest of the Congress party.
The retired judge had countered the allegations, saying he was not appearing in defence of Modi but as an expert witness to give his legal opinion, which the UK court may consider or disregard.