Indian fugitive Nirav Modi transferred to privately-run prison in London

Nirav lost his legal battle in the highest UK court against being extradited to India

Nirav Modi (File) Nirav Modi | Amey Mansabdar

Nirav Modi, the fugitive diamond merchant wanted in India to stand trial on fraud and money laundering charges, has been transferred out of one of the largest and most overcrowded prisons in the UK to a privately-run facility in London, it emerged on Thursday.

The 52-year-old former billionaire was due to appear at a magistrates' court hearing in relation to legal costs, or fines, amounting to GBP 150,247 ordered by the High Court in London related to his failed extradition appeal proceedings. However, the case had to be adjourned at the last moment to November as Barkingside Magistrates' Court in east London was unable to track down Nirav in time for his videolink appearance.

He was moved to HMP (His Majesty's Prison) Thameside from HMP Wandsworth as an internal transfer, which the court was unaware of until today, a court official said. The news of the transfer comes days after a major manhunt was launched after a terrorist suspect escaped Wandsworth prison in south-west London.

While Daniel Khalife was later nabbed and is back behind bars now, UK Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told the media earlier this month that 40 inmates had been moved out of the prison after the high-profile security breach "out of an abundance of caution".

The escape had raised serious questions about alleged understaffing and overcrowding at Wandsworth, where Nirav had been lodged since his arrest on an extradition warrant in March 2019.

It would now seem Nirav was among that group of 40 and is now lodged at Thameside prison in south-east London, also reportedly facing overcrowding issues of its own. However, the level of security at Nirav's new quarters remains unchanged as a Category B men's prison, similar to Wandsworth.

HMP Thameside is described as London's only private prison, which can hold around 1,232 convicted and on-remand male prisoners. As a relatively new-build prison, it was completed in March 2012 and is run by the firm Serco.

Last year, Nirav had lost his legal battle in the highest UK court against being extradited to India in the estimated $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam case. But his case is now said to be statute-barred, indicating further pending litigation.

At the last procedural hearing in March this year, magistrates at Barkingside Magistrates' Court had granted his plea to be allowed to pay GBP 10,000 a month using borrowed funds after he told the court of his financial hardships due to his assets being frozen in India. This week's hearing was scheduled as a review of that previous order.

In December last year, a two-judge bench in the Royal Courts of Justice in London had refused Nirav's application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on suicide risk grounds and also refused his application to certify a point of law, which concluded his extradition appeal options in the UK courts.

This case may be subject to further litigation, UK Home Office sources have said, which is likely to indicate a parallel confidential political asylum appeals process.

Nirav was arrested in March 2019 on an extradition warrant based on Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) charges against the businessman.

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 Nirav's extradition based on Judge Sam Goozee's Westminster Magistrates' Court ruling in April 2021.

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