The diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, whose jewels once adorned stars from Bollywood to Hollywood, has been remanded in custody in London, more than a year after Indian authorities alleged he was involved in a £1.3bn bank fraud.
A judge ordered Modi to be held at the end of a hearing at Westminster magistrates court on Wednesday. District Justice Marie Mallon said there was a risk the billionaire merchant would fail to appear for future hearings because of his access to large sums of money that could help him evade the courts and his “keenness to do so”.
“There are substantial grounds to believe that you would fail to surrender before the court if bail were to be granted,” the judge said.
Modi, 48, is fighting extradition to India. His lawyer, George Hepburne Scott, had argued Modi had been living openly in London since June 2018. He was arrested on Tuesday in central London.
“He strongly contests all the allegations and is prepared with comprehensive arguments to support his case,” Hepburne Scott said. “His legal team has had months of contact with the extradition squad and expressed his willingness to cooperate.”
Modi was employed in London on a monthly salary of £20,000 and regularly paid his council tax, his lawyers added.
He was arrested on Tuesday when trying to open a new bank account at a branch in London and a clerk alerted Scotland Yard, the court heard. Modi had originally agreed to surrender to UK authorities by Monday.
Indian authorities have been seeking Modi’s arrest since February 2018, when they alleged companies he controlled defrauded the state-owned Punjab National Bank by using fake financial documents to get loans to buy and import jewels.
Modi denies the allegations and has sought political asylum in the UK.
British and Indian journalists have filmed the mogul in London in recent weeks, increasing the pressure on both countries to deal with his case.
Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said he welcomed the news of Modi’s arrest. “[The] government of India continues to actively follow up this matter with the authorities concerned in the UK, with a view to have Nirav Modi extradited to India at the earliest,” Kumar said.
Modi’s arrest is likely to boost the prospects of his namesake, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi (no relation), who is running for re-election in part on a platform of eradicating corruption.
Another Indian mogul accused of defrauding banks, Vijay Mallya, is awaiting extradition from the UK. The liquor and airline baron’s case is pending with the Home Office. Mallya denies any wrongdoing.