UK approves diamond tycoon Nirav Modi's extradition to India

Security guards stand inside Nirav Modi showroom in New Delhi

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has approved the extradition of fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, a Home Office spokesman said on Friday.

The jeweller fled India before details on his alleged involvement in $2.2 billion bank fraud, India's biggest, became public in 2018. The fraud dented confidence in the state banking sector and New Delhi has since tried to get Modi extradited.

"On 25 February the District Judge gave judgment in the extradition case of Nirav Modi. The extradition order was signed on April 15," a spokesman for the United Kingdom's Home Office said in a statement on Friday.

Modi, whose diamonds have adorned Hollywood stars such as Kate Winslet and Dakota Johnson, can still appeal to a higher court in Britain against the decisions of both the district court and the secretary within 14 days.

Zulfiquar Memon of Indian law firm MZM Legal, who is part of team representing Modi in his extradition case, said "the legal team is in the process of challenging the order in the UK High Court, which may happen anytime soon."

India's Ministry of External Affairs did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Modi was arrested in Britain in March 2019 and has been in custody since then.

Punjab National Bank, India's second-largest state-run bank, in 2018 said that two jewellery groups headed by Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi had defrauded it by raising credit from other Indian banks using illegal guarantees issued by rogue PNB staff.

Both Modi and Choksi have denied wrongdoing.

Vijay Mallya, another fugitive Indian business tycoon,was ordered to be extradited by the British Home Office in 2019, but has since appealed and continues to fight his case in London.

(Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan, Editing by Angus MacSwan)