Jailed diamond dealer and art collector Nirav Modi fights extradition to India on mental health grounds

Modi, who is currently held in Wandsworth Prison in London, is wanted for allegedly defrauding a state bank of £729m

Disgraced diamantaire Nirav Modi (right) with celebrity client, actress Naomi Watts Courtesy of DNA India

Disgraced diamantaire Nirav Modi (right) with celebrity client, actress Naomi Watts Courtesy of DNA India

The disgraced diamond dealer and major art collector Nirav Modi has won the right to appeal his extradition back to India—where he is currently wanted in connection with an alleged £729m bank fraud—and remain in the UK on grounds that he has a "recurrent depressive disorder".

One of India's richest men, whose jewels have been worn by high-profile celebrities including Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, Modi has been held in Wandsworth prison in London since 2019 after he was accused of leading a Ponzi-style fraud targeting the Indian state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB), as well as charges of money laundering and witness intimidation.

The UK high court Judge Martin Chamberlain ruled yesterday that an appeal looking at the consequences of Modi’s mental health is “reasonably arguable”. He cited "the severity of the appellant’s depression, the high risk of suicide and the adequacy of any measures capable of preventing successful suicide attempts,” as reasons for his ruling.

In June, the UK high court had turned down Modi’s appeal against his extradition to India.

A prison expert told the court that the Indian jail system struggles to provide proper psychological care for inmates and that the depressed diamantaire would not be appropriately cared for in Arthur Road jail, in Mumbai, where he is due to be detained.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its resurgence in India was also cited as a reason against the extradition.

In March 2019, 68 works from Modi's art collection, seized by the Indian state, were sold by Mumbai-based auction house SaffronArt on behalf of the state income tax department. It marked the first instance of an Indian auction house selling works of art on behalf of a government agency. The proceeds of the sale went towards writing off Modi's debt. Overall the sale made £5.3m including a 1973 V S Gaitonde painting that made £2.6m—the artist's fourth highest record at the time.

A further sale of art, jewellery and other luxury goods seized from Modi took place at SaffronArt in January 2020, achieving £5.1m. At the time of the sale, SaffronArt told The Art Newspaper that they would likely continue to sell off further parts of Modi's estate in collaboration with the country's income tax department.