THE TRIAL in the alleged Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case will be held separately against fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi and four others and the remaining accused who are already arrested.
A special court, while ordering on Thursday that the trial be separated, said that although the extradition proceedings against Nirav is going on in the UK, ‘nobody knows how much time it will take’. The court said that speedy trial is the right of the accused and two men arrested in the case in 2018 are languishing in jail without trial.
The CBI had moved two applications last month stating that two of the absconding accused named in the first chargesheet–Nirav Modi and Neeshal Modi–and three accused named in the supplementary chargesheet–Nehal Modi, Sandip Mistry and Mihir Bhansali–are yet to be arrested. The agency through its special counsel A Limosin said the extradition process is on to bring Nirav back to India, but meanwhile the trial against the other arrested can begin.
“It is found that accused Gokulnath Shetty and Hemant Bhatt are in jail since 2018. Their bail applications were rejected by the court. Speedy trial is the right of the accused. They cannot be kept languishing without a trial….Though extradition proceedings against Nirav Modi are going on in the UK, nobody knows how much time it will take and its result,” special CBI Judge S M Menjoge said. The CBI had in its first chargesheet named 25 persons and 30 in the supplementary chargesheet in the case.
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While some of the accused were arrested and granted bail, Shetty (66), the retired deputy general manager of the bank and Bhatt (71), the authorised signatory of the Nirav Modi Group of firms, continue to remain behind bars. While Shetty through his lawyer had neither supported or opposed the CBI plea, he had raised the issue that the probe in the case is still not completed and hence the application is premature. Other accused had opposed the CBI plea stating that the trial cannot be separated as the case has charges of criminal conspiracy and the extradition process is on.
The court said that those accused objecting to the plea are out on bail and ‘hence they are not bothered about the pendency of these cases’.
The CBI had made its first arrests in the case in February 2018 claiming that ‘fraudulent’ Letters of Undertaking to various companies of the Nirav Modi Group by connivance between Nirav and other employees of his companies and employees of the bank caused losses to the bank and benefits to themselves with the scam pegged at Rs 13,500 crore. A separate case was also filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
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