London: Disgraced diamond tycoon Nirav Modi won his bid to appeal his extradition from the U.K. to India to face claims he defrauded a major state bank out of billions of dollars, a move his lawyers said would damage his mental health.
An appeal looking at the consequences to Modi’s state of mind is “reasonably arguable,” Judge Martin Chamberlain ruled Monday. The decision is a blow to the Indian government that’s seeking to charge the high-profile businessman on home turf, where Modi’s lawyers had argued he’d face an unfair trial.
London judges regularly probe the impact to mental health during extradition proceedings. Julian Assange’s lawyers successfully argued he can’t be sent to the U.S. over concerns he is a suicide risk, according to a January ruling.
Modi’s drawn out extradition is the most high-profile since Vijay Mallya, the flamboyant businessman, who lost his appeal against his transfer to India. Should India successfully get Modi to face the charges it’ll be seen as a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit his popularity.
Modi is wanted in Indian court over allegations he defrauded the state-run Punjab National Bank of around $2 billion. Modi’s lawyers argued last month that being sent to India would worsen his suicidal feelings and subject him to terrible conditions in a “Covid-rich prison” in Mumbai. A psychiatrist told the court Modi was at “substantial”, but not immediate, risk of suicide.
A spokesman for India’s external affairs said he didn’t want to immediately comment on the ruling.
He was once a jeweler to film stars like Kate Winslet, but his empire came crashing down as allegations emerged of him fraudulently securing guarantees from the state-run lender that were then used to obtain loans abroad.
The U.K. Home Office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for Modi declined to comment. –Bloomberg