U.K. court further remands Nirav Modi in custody till May 24

Diamond merchant Nirav Modi will remain in custody till the next hearing in the extradition proceedings against him on May 24 as his legal team failed to make a further application for bail before the court in London.

During the brief procedural hearing on Friday, Mr. Modi — the main accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud case — appeared by video link from Wandsworth Prison in south London.

Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate of Westminster Court, set May 24 for the next procedural hearing (Mr. Modi has to be produced before the court every four weeks and May 30 for the first case management hearing, for which Mr. Modi will be brought in person.

There was no further attempt to push for bail, following the unsuccessful application made before Judge Arbuthnot in March, at which the prosecution accused Mr. Modi of threatening to kill a witness and destroying evidence in an effort to curtail his case.

Judge Arbuthnot had accepted the arguments, saying she was denying bail because of the risk he would fail to surrender to the court and his lack of community ties.

Mr. Modi would have been entitled to make a third bail application if there had been a substantial change in circumstances for the application. However, no such application was made during the hearing. Mr. Modi has also so far failed to lodge an appeal at the High Court, which would have provided another avenue for him to attempt to gain bail. There is no time limit on this application though.

Overcrowded prison

Mr. Modi has been remanded in HM Wandsworth, one of Europe’s largest and most overcrowded prisons. His case took an unexpected turn in March, after police arrested him following a tip-off by an Indian-origin clerk at a bank in central London. He had recognised Mr. Modi following the wave of publicity around the case. Mr. Modi’s legal team had been in touch with the Metropolitan Police’s Extradition Unit to arrange for him to hand himself over voluntarily by appointment the following week.

Last year, the inspectorate of prisons in the U.K. published a scathing inspection report on conditions in the prison in which it warned about issues ranging from the availability of illicit drugs, limited places for activities that meant many prisoners remained locked in cells during the working day, and overcrowded conditions that meant cells designed for one were often occupied by two. An action plan for improvement has since been set.