Former High Court Justice turned Congress leader Abhay Thipsay told a UK court that the charges leveled against Nirav Modi by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) would not hold up in India. The statement by Thipsay came on the third day of the fugitive jeweler's five-day extradition trial at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London.
Appearing before the court via video link from India, Thipsay, who has served in the Bombay and Allahabad high courts, argued that the accusations of criminal conspiracy, cheating and deception made against the 49-year-old diamond merchant would not stand up under Indian law.
Thipsay's full statement
"Unless someone is deceived, there can be no cheating under Indian law. Deception is an essential ingredient of an offense of cheating. If no one was deceived in issuing LoUs (letters of undertaking), there is no question of a corporate body being deceived. The authority given to officials of the bank to issue LoUs cannot be said to be property and they cannot be said to be entrusted with property and therefore there cannot be a criminal breach of trust," Thipsay was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
The argument presented by the retired judge was heard by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as they had also joined in the hearing via video link from India. Crown Prosecution Service Barrister Helen Malcolm, appearing on behalf of the Indian authorities, had laid out the CBI and the ED case against Nirav Modi.
The elusive diamantaire is wanted in India on charges of obtaining unsanctioned loans worth Rs 6,400 crore at highly advantageous rates by means of letters of undertaking (LoUs) from Punjab National Bank (PNB). He is also accused of using the funds for purposes other than stated through layers of "dummy companies" located overseas.
Nirav Modi was arrested in March last year on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard and is currently lodged in Wandsworth Prison in south-west London. His bail plea has been rejected five times thus far.
BJP targets Congress over Thipsay's defense of Nirav Modi
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a scathing attack on the Congress with Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleging that Thipsay is working at his party's behest to influence the judicial process in the UK and protect Nirav Modi.
"A retired judge is giving a judicial certificate, his opinion is legally unsound. This is an attempt to give a misleading defense of a questionable legal variety and we are confident that the legal process will not be affected," Prasad said. Thipsay had joined the Congress in June 2018 in the presence of then party president Rahul Gandhi.
Ex Judge Abhay Thipsay, who appeared as expert witness in Nirav Modi case, had joined Congress Party after retirement in presence of Rahul Gandhi & Ashok Gehlot. Supreme Court had transferred him from Mumbai to Allahabad just 10 months before retirement on administrative grounds. pic.twitter.com/83tWa0mcu8— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) May 14, 2020
Countering the allegations by the BJP, the Congress said that the advocates have a right to appear on behalf of their clients.
#lawministers know right of advocates 2appear 4clients which cnot b trifled with. #Thipsay gave evidence in UK court which he has right 2do wo dictation by BJP. 1 of 3accused in Indira assassination was acquitted cos lawyers like #jethamalani were nt browbeaten into nt appearing!— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) May 14, 2020
Hope #Lawminister has intentionally or unintentionally not reopened can of worms re senior distinguished #BJP lawyers, now departed souls (#RIP), whose children held briefs & retainers 4high profile accused in #UK! Such reasoning denies legal rep 2accused b4 conviction and after!— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) May 14, 2020