A manhunt is on across airports and ports of the United Kingdom on Thursday after a terrorist suspect escaped from a London prison where diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who is wanted in India on fraud and money charges, has also been lodged for over three years.
Former British Army soldier Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, who was awaiting trial on charges of breaching the UK’s Official Secrets Act at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London, escaped allegedly by clinging to the under-carriage of a delivery van.
The Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command issued an urgent public appeal on Wednesday to help trace the suspect following his escape from one of the UK’s largest and overcrowded prisons.
“We have a team of officers who are making extensive and urgent enquiries in order to locate and detain Khalife as quickly as possible,” said Commander Dominic Murphy, Head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.
“However, the public can help us as well and should anyone see Khalife, or have any information as to where he might be, then please call 999 immediately. I also want to reassure the public that we have no information which indicates, nor any reason to believe that Khalife poses a threat to the wider public, but our advice if you do see him is not to approach him and call 999 straight away,” he said.
The suspect is thought to still be in the UK and is believed to have connections to the Kingston area in south-west London.
UK Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said he had called a meeting with the governor of Wandsworth prison to ensure “all necessary steps” had been taken to “secure the prison and progress the investigation”.
First opened in 1851, HMP Wandsworth is classed as a category B men’s prison which is a level below high-security prisons in the country.
It holds prisoners taken directly from courts in the local area after sentencing as well as those on remand awaiting trial.
Nirav Modi, 52, has been imprisoned there since his arrest on an extradition warrant in March 2019.
While his extradition was ordered by then Home Secretary Priti Patel in 2021, he has lodged several appeals in the higher courts as he contested his extradition on mental health grounds of severe depression.
His legal team had also raised the “severe” conditions he faced in Wandsworth Prison during his many appeal hearings over the years, where he was forced to share a cell with another inmate.
References were made in court about the diamond merchant’s suicidal thoughts due to the prison circumstances, classed as “personally difficult”, with “confidential exhibits” submitted to the court on experiences that had “marked him deeply”.
Except for a few initial remand hearings, Nirav appeared via video link from a room in Wandsworth after his attempts at seeking bail were repeatedly turned down.
There are three sets of criminal proceedings against the diamantaire in India — the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case of fraud on Punjab National Bank (PNB), which caused losses equivalent to over GBP 700 million, the ED case relating to the alleged laundering of the proceeds of that fraud, and a third set of criminal proceedings involving alleged interference with evidence and witnesses in the CBI proceedings.
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