Nirav Modi is an accused in the massive Punjab National Bank fraud case

London:

Nirav Modi’s lawyer raised a British court’s judgment blocking the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US on mental health grounds, as the embattled diamond merchant appeared via video link before a court in London on Thursday for a two-day hearing of final submissions in his fight against being extradited to India.

The 49-year-old diamond merchant, facing charges of fraud, money laundering and intimidating witnesses in the estimated $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case, appeared in the Westminster Magistrate’s Court.

Sporting a full beard and dressed casually in a blazer, he followed the proceedings from a room at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London as his counsel raised Monday’s judgment, which blocked the extradition of Mr Assange to the US on the grounds of his mental health.

In the Assange case, which is currently the subject of appeal, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser had ruled that extradition would be “oppressive by reason of mental harm” as the Australian activist could commit suicide.

“As in the Assange case, the issues here evidentially are the same – the mental condition of Mr Modi and the treatment he would receive given the prison conditions in India,” said barrister Clare Montgomery, reiterating that her client’s mental health has been deteriorating due to his lengthy incarceration since March 2019.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian authorities, sought an adjournment to the proceedings in order to access Mr Modi’s mental health records to be independently evaluated by a consultant psychiatrist and appropriate assurances be acquired in terms of his care in India.

“While the issues of mental health are not contested, the consequences of those need cross-examining,” said CPS barrister Helen Malcolm, who appeared via video link for the part-remote courtroom settings in place due to the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

Newsbeep

The CPS pointed to assurances by India in the case as well as the option for Mr Modi to access private medical treatment, given his offer of millions in the course of several bail applications before the UK courts.

However, District Judge Samuel Goozee turned down the application for adjournment and concluded that the Indian government had “ample opportunity” to respond to five reports presented by defence witness Dr Andrew Forrester, a forensic psychiatrist who examined Mr Modi on several occasions last year and concluded that “coupled with a severe condition of depression, he presents a high risk of suicide albeit not immediately”.

The hearing on Thursday went on to focus on the defence team’ concluding submissions that several legal bars exist against extraditing Mr Modi to India, including on human rights grounds due to inadequate prison conditions that would fail to provide sufficient anti-suicide measures.

Mr Modi’s lawyers claimed that he would not receive a fair trial in India due to the case being politicised by the “ruling BJP”, which impacted on the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

On Friday, the CPS will conclude submissions on the prima facie case against Mr Modi in detail, which is expected to complete the final hearings in the case and a judgment expected in a few weeks.

Source link