Britain approves extradition of Indian celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi

A 2018 photo shows a Nirav Modi showroom in New Delhi, India. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's interior ministry said on Friday (April 16) it had approved the extradition of fugitive Indian jeweller Nirav Modi to his homeland, where he is accused of defrauding one of the largest banks of US$1.8 billion (S$2.4 billion).

Modi, dubbed a jeweller to the stars thanks to celebrity customers in Hollywood and Bollywood, lost his legal bid to avoid extradition from Britain in February.

He fled India in February 2018 after being accused of having a central role in defrauding Punjab National Bank, one of India's largest lenders, of US$1.8 billion.

Interior minister Priti Patel had two months to approve his extradition, which was ordered by district judge Sam Goozee following two years of court hearings.

Goozee ruled there was enough evidence to suggest there was a criminal case against Modi in India.

"On Feb 25, the district judge gave judgment in the extradition case of Nirav Modi. The extradition order was signed on April 15," a spokeswoman for the interior ministry said in a short statement.

Modi has 14 days to begin an appeal of Patel's decision.

Before the alleged fraud which rocked corporate India, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at US$1.73 billion, placing him 85th on India's rich list.

He was arrested in London in March 2019, and has been held in prison on remand while his case has been litigated.

The 49-year-old is also accused of money laundering as well as witness intimidation and destroying evidence.

In his February ruling, Goozee dismissed submissions from his legal team that he would not be treated fairly in India, and said there was not enough evidence from doctors to believe he was a suicide risk.

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