LONDON: In a major boost to the efforts of the Indian authorities to get Nirav Modi extradited to the country, a UK judge on Tuesday ruled in the government of India’s favour by allowing the admissibility of its evidence against the fugitive economic offender.
Nirav – who is accused of, among other charges, large-scale fraud on Punjab National Bank worth 6,498 crore – was remanded in custody till December 1. The barristers will make oral closing submissions on January 7 and 8 and the judgement is expected a few weeks after that.
Nirav’s barrister Clare Montgomery QC countered GOI’s arguments at the hearing by comparing the case with that of alleged kingpin in naval war room leak, Ravi Shankaran, who is in UK and never got extradited. She argued that Shankaran’s extradition was overturned based on GOI’s evidence not meeting the UK extradition criteria and added that statements under section 161 of Code of Criminal Procedure in India (statements of witnesses recorded and signed by the police) were inadmissible in extradition cases.
However, district judge Samuel Mark Goozée decided to rule according to the judgement in the case of another economic fugitive Vijay Mallya, which said that statements under section 161 were admissible. The judge ruled in GOI’s favour even though Montgomery argued that the Nirav and Mallya cases were totally different.
The judge said that GOI’s witness statements that were verbatim would be considered alongside the totality of evidence “as this was a fraud case and witnesses give similar evidence”.
Nirav, 49, appeared via videolink from Wandsworth Prison. He had grown a bushy grey beard, put on weight and sat with his arms tightly folded, looking depressed and unwell.
Arguing Nirav’s case, Montgomery said: “The concern in India is these statements are not being taken from witnesses, and are rather the product of corrupt or incompetent conduct by police.”
She referred to a report by the Law Commission of India which claimed they “should never have any evidential value”.
“There were many complaints that dishonest police officers can write anything they like in them and the statements are often inaccurate. Section 161 statements are not directly made by witnesses or directly confirmed by them to be true – it is simply a self-fulfilling assertion of (an) officer,” she said.
She relied on the case of Shankaran who managed to get his extradition to India overturned in 2014 solely because the High Court in UK ruled it was wrong of the lower court to admit into evidence a statement which the CBI recorded that was not signed by a witness. She also argued that some witness statements were copy-paste of each other.
Helen Malcolm QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Indian government, said the argument on Shankaran was “nonsense” and “a misguided point” and told Goozee he was “bound by Mallya on (section) 161”.
“Section 161 is the way the CBI takes witness statements in India. This would change the entire nature of evidence from India for extraditions,” she said.
Source From : Times Of India