Fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi. (ANI)

LONDON — Indian fugitive jeweler Nirav Modi has been granted permission to appeal against his extradition from the United Kingdom to India on mental health grounds.

High Court judge Martin Chamberlain ruled that Nirav Modi should be given a “substantial hearing” to appeal against an earlier ruling at Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London.

The court allowed the appeal because returning to India would harm his mental health and place him at risk of suicide.

The Westminster court deemed Nirav Modi fit to be returned to India to face the charges of defrauding an Indian bank, the Punjab National Bank, of around $2 billion and further charges of money laundering, witness intimidation, and destruction of evidence.

Nirav Modi’s lawyers had long argued that their client suffered from severe depression and would not receive adequate medical care if imprisoned at the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai pending his court appearance.

The lawyers said that Nirav Modi’s mental health condition had deteriorated further during his incarceration at Wandsworth Prison in South London following his arrest in London in March 2019 and the strict restrictions placed on prisons during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The British Bar & Bench are convinced that it hasn’t yet milked Nirav Modi of his ill-gotten wealth adequately, and India deserved to lose a bit more of her wealth if she couldn’t prevent such hoodlums from running away with its wealth in the first place,” said Indian political analyst Raja Singh.

The lawyers also introduced several medical experts to prove that Nirav Modi was at high risk of suicide.

In his appeal at the High Court, Nirav Modi’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC said that Westminster Magistrate’s Court judge Samuel Goozee would violate Modi’s human rights as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The United Kingdom is setting up a wrong example here without realizing that these are tactics by the accused to escape facing jail in India,” said political analyst Govindarajan. V in a tweet. “Nirav Modi granted permission to appeal his extradition to India on mental health grounds and suicide risk.”

Once the jeweler to some of the biggest stars of Hollywood and Bollywood, Nirav Modi stands accused of defrauding an Indian bank through a carefully orchestrated scam involving dummy corporations and directors.

The Indian government also charges Nirav Modi with witness intimidation and destruction of evidence. He has been held at Wandsworth Prison in London since his arrest in the British capital in March 2019.

Nirav Modi’s extradition was ordered by judge Samuel Goozee sitting at Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London in February.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Amrita Das and Praveen Pramod Tewari

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