Celebrity jeweler Nirav Modi appears in UK court

Nirav Modi. Getty Images 

LONDON — Nirav Modi, India's fugitive jeweler to the stars, appeared at a London court on Thursday as his extradition battle focused on which prison India would send him to.

Accused of involvement in a massive bank fraud that rocked India's corporate community, Modi, 48, appeared in custody at Westminster Magistrates Court and spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot, England's chief magistrate, said she wanted to know within 14 days which prison the Indian authorities intended to hold Modi in.

Arbuthnot also said she wanted to receive the opening note in the case within six weeks, after state prosecutors, acting on behalf of the Indian authorities, said it would be difficult to provide it within four weeks.

Modi fled India in February 2018 after being accused of having a central role in a $1.8-billion (1.6-billion-euro) fraud involving Punjab National Bank (PNB), the country's second-largest public lender.

Forbes estimated Modi's wealth at $1.73 billion before the alleged fraud, placing him 85th on India's rich list.

Arbuthnot ordered Modi to reappear before the court via video-link on June 27.

A further case management hearing was set for July 29, at which the judge said she would be expecting to set a date for the full extradition hearing.

Modi's lawyers indicated that it would take them six months to prepare their defense case.

Modi owned luxury jewelry stores in several major cities across the world and boasted celebrity customers including actresses Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas before his downfall.

He was arrested in London on March 19.

That month, his art collection was auctioned off, raising $8 million for the Indian tax authorities.

The Indian authorities also dynamited the billionaire's seafront mansion.

The 33,000 square-foot (3,000 square meter) property near Mumbai, believed to be worth $14 million, had been seized.

— Agence France-Presse

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