Fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi was denied bail in a London court on Friday, following his arrest last week on charges over his alleged involvement in a $2 billion fraud at India's state-run Punjab National Bank.
The 48-year-old, who denies the charges, faces possible extradition to India where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under pressure to take a firm stance on the case ahead of national elections in April-May. The two Modis are not related.
“There are substantial grounds to fear failure to surrender,” magistrate Emma Arbuthnot told a Westminster court, adding that Modi's application in 2017 for a visa to the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu exacerbated those concerns. A witness has alleged that Modi threatened to kill him and had also offered around 2 million rupees ($29,000) as a bribe to offer false testimony, Toby Cadman, a lawyer representing the Indian government, told the court.
The prosecution also allege that mobile phones and a server containing evidence critical to the fraud case have been destroyed at the request of Modi, Cadman said. Clare Montgomery, a lawyer representing Modi, said there was no evidence to support the claims of witness intimidation.
Modi, whose diamonds have adorned Hollywood stars such as Kate Winslet and Dakota Johnson, is among those accused in India's biggest banking fraud, which has shaken confidence in the country's state banking sector.
The diamond magnate was arrested in the Holborn area of central London last week after he went into a bank to open an account and a member of staff contacted police.
Modi was not a fugitive, was leasing a property in London under his own name and had made arrangements to surrender voluntarily on March 25, Montgomery, the lawyer representing him, told the court.