So it’s a long winter ahead for Nirav Modi within that frightful looking Wandsworth prison. More frightening within for sure. The Westminster Magistrates Court was told at the hearing of Nirav Modi’s fifth bail move that he had been attacked just the day before the hearing. Two inmates entered his cell, beat him up and threw him to the ground. This was not the first such attack. As a supposed billionaire diamantaire Nirav Modi would be certain to stand out as a target among prisoners. And he looks like he’ll be in there now at least until May when the hearing is due to begin in his extradition case. That would already make it 14 months in jail after his arrest in March this year. It’s not very likely he will now get bail before then.
But what was that about a suicide attempt? All sorts of reports have surfaced. One – and this was referred to in court – was some Indian media reports suggesting that he had attempted suicide. Another report appeared following the hearing that Nirav Modi had told the court he would commit suicide if extradited. He told the court no such thing. What did transpire in court through the hearing of his bail application on Wednesday this week was a reference that James Lewis, appearing for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) made to some reports of a suicide threat by Nirav Modi earlier. This was by way only of reference to a reported threat. And this Lewis in fact used against Modi: “He has said he will kill himself if his extradition is ordered. That in itself is the strongest motivation for someone to abscond.”
Lewis needed just a few minutes to effectively counter the application for bail. He’s is a formidable barrister that the CPS – acting for the Indian government - brought against Nirav Modi. One judge has described him as a Rolls Royce advocate. At least 20 governments have hired him; it can take governments sometimes to pay his fee. He’s particularly strong on matters of commercial fraud – he has unravelled many in courts. For his opponents, too many. On the other hand, the star barrister Clare Montgomery who had acted for Nirav Modi earlier no longer appeared for him.
But in its own way the Indian media, and the Indian government with it, were in the dock as well in court. Hugo Keith appearing for Nirav Modi pointed to a number of reports in Indian media about Nirav Modi citing “government sources”. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot had strong stuff to say about this. She said such leaked reports are “most unfortunate”, which is polite court language for saying “shameful and unacceptable”. But she said more. The appearance of such reports, she said, if true, “would undermine trust in the Indian government.” It would be odd if government leaks were to open legal loopholes for Nirav Modi to slip through. Surely, government agencies should think about governing more and leaking less.
Where is the Third World A prisoner (not Nirav Modi) is on suicide watch in his cell. The watch slips, he commits suicide. The prison officials meant to be keeping that watch were sleeping when they should have been watching. Entries in their record were later falsified. The inmate was never meant to be where he was detained in the first place. All this happens at a detention centre that gives inmates little access to sunlight or fresh air. Such little as there is, is limited to one hour in 24 on weekdays, with none at all on weekends. This is a detention centre that had a power cut in freezing temperatures that lasted all of one week. No psychiatrist available to distressed inmates for consultation, only one that may only prescribe medicines. These are third world conditions, a judge notes. Except that these are conditions described at two detention centres in New York.
The conditions were described by two witnesses who have worked long within these detention centres. The witnesses were summoned over videolink from the US at a London court hearing in defence of Jabir Sadiq Motiwalla, a Pakistani aide of Dawood Ibrahim currently under arrest in London. Motiwalla is resisting extradition to the US which wants him on charges of money laundering and extortion. Jabir Motiwalla predictably is contesting the extradition. He denies the charges against him, but the bulk of his defence in court this week was that he must not be extradited to the US because conditions at the proposed detention centre are unacceptable. Which is to say that detention facilities in New York are not good enough for a Pakistani.
It would be just as true no doubt that the lifestyle of a top Dawood lieutenant as Motiwalla has been described to be, would be very much more ‘first world’ in Pakistan than many in the US could ever hope to have. The federal judge who used that expression ‘Third World conditions’ to describe the Metropolitan Detention Centre and the Metropolitan Correction Centre in New York has got this wrong. Speaking of detention centres, the new facility built within Arthur Road jail in Mumbai sounds like a hotel compared to conditions described in New York. Or in Wandsworth prison in London for that matter. All this about First World and Third World are second-rate observations.
London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around. Read his columns