A UK court has extended the judicial remand of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, fighting extradition to India on charges over the nearly $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case, for a hearing to take place on April 28.
The 49-year-old, who has been lodged at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest last year, appeared via videolink from prison for his regular 28-day call-over hearing before Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London.
“The case is next listed for a case management on April 28, when he is to appear via videolink again,” a court official said.
Modi's legal team and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), representing the Indian government in the extradition proceedings, held a “lawyers-only” case management hearing in the case earlier on Tuesday, ahead of a five-day trial scheduled between May 11 and 15.
Most of the legal cases in the UK are switching to videolink and telephonic options where possible, with all new jury trials suspended amid the social distancing rules in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK's Ministry of Justice has confirmed 207 prisoners in 57 jails have tested positive with 13 suspected Covid-19 related deaths. An extra 500 cells were being created following an announcement of the early release of up to 4,000 prisoners to ease overcrowding.
"We have robust and flexible plans in place to keep prisoners, staff and the wider public safe based on the latest advice from Public Health England," a spokesperson for the justice ministry said.
Modi, whose Wandsworth prison is considered one of the most over-crowded in England, had made a fifth attempt at bail in the High Court last month, which was rejected as the judge ruled that he continued to pose a flight risk.
Justice Ian Dove presided over the bail hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on March 5, during which Modi appeared via videolink from Wandsworth Prison as his legal team offered a package of "stringent" bail measures, including bail security of GBP 4 million, house arrest at his central London luxury apartment with a 24-hour electronic tag as well as a private security guard service and a strictly monitored access to gadgets and telephones.
"My central concern of a risk of absconding are not obviated by the measures presented," Justice Dove had concluded.
Modi was arrested on March 19, 2019, on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government. During subsequent hearings, Westminster Magistrates' Court was told that Modi was the "principal beneficiary" of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime.