London: Nirav Modi, the fugitive diamond merchant wanted in India to stand trial on fraud and money laundering charges, on Thursday suffered another setback in his legal battle against his extradition as the High Court here denied him permission to appeal against the move in the UK Supreme Court.
In a judgment order pronounced at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith and Justice Robert Jay ruled that “the Appellant’s (Nirav Modi) application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court is refused”.
In a ruling delivered speedily within just over a week of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) submitting its response to the 51-year-old diamantaire’s permission to appeal application on behalf of the Indian government, the judges also ruled that the “certification of a point of law be refused” that would have allowed his plea to progress to the higher court.
An appeal on the grounds of a point of law of general public importance is a high threshold that is not met very often and this refusal significantly limits Modi’s remaining legal options in the UK against extradition to India.
The latest High Court order also directs Modi to pay the legal costs related to the latest application, assessed in the sum of GBP 150,247.00.
Last month, Modi lost an appeal on mental health grounds when the same two-judge High Court bench ruled that his risk of suicide is not such that it would be either unjust or oppressive to extradite him to India to face charges in the estimated USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam case.
Modi, meanwhile, remains behind bars at Wandsworth Prison in London since his arrest on an extradition warrant in March 2019.
“If they refuse to certify a question and leave to appeal then that is the end of the road,” the CPS previously explained, with relation to the appeals process in UK courts.
As his attempt to have his appeal heard in the Supreme Court in London has now failed, in principle, Modi can apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to try and block his extradition on the basis that he will not receive a fair trial and that he will be detained in conditions that breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the UK is a signatory.
The threshold for an ECHR appeal is also extremely high because he would also have to demonstrate that his arguments on those grounds before the UK courts have been previously rejected.
UK Home Office sources have indicated that it is still unknown when extradition may take place as Modi still has legal challenges open to him.
The dismissal of the High Court appeal last month marked a major win for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) case against the businessman, who has been in prison since his arrest on an extradition warrant in March 2019.
There are three sets of criminal proceedings against the diamantaire in India – the CBI case of fraud on the PNB which caused losses equivalent to over GBP 700 million, the ED case relating to the alleged laundering of the proceeds of that fraud and a third set of criminal proceedings involving alleged interference with evidence and witnesses in the CBI proceedings.
Then UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, had ordered Modi’s extradition based on Judge Sam Goozee‘s Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruling in April 2021 and the case is now in its final stages of legal appeals.