The diamond merchant at the center of more than $2 million Punjab National Bank fraud case in India, Nirav Modi, has fled to the United Kingdom to seek political asylum, the Financial Times reported on June 10, quoting British and Indian officials.
“Officials in India and the UK say he (Nirav Modi) is in London, where his company has one store and is trying to claim asylum from what he said was political persecution,” the publication said. NDTV had reported last month that Modi had tried approaching two firms in his bid to get political asylum in the United Kingdom.
“There are always a number of complicated cases that add a little tension and spice to our relationship with India. But there is also an appreciation from both sides that we have a legal process that has to be gone through and that we are of course governed by human rights legislation,” a senior UK Foreign official was quoted as saying in the FT report.
The UK Home Office said that it does not provide information on individual cases, Reuters reported. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs, on the other hand, was quoted as saying by the Financial Times that it is waiting for law enforcement agencies to approach them before pushing for Modi’s extradition.
The Punjab National Bank was allegedly defrauded of around $2.2 billion by Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi’s companies. The scam was allegedly conducted over several years by raising credit from overseas branches of other Indian banks using illegal Letters of Undertaking issued by employees at PNB’s Mumbai branch.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet last month in the case, naming Modi, Choksi, former PNB chief Usha Ananthasubramanian, two of the bank’s executive directors and three companies belonging to Modi. In the CBI’s charge sheet filed before the Mumbai court, the senior executives at PNB were accused of misleading the Reserve Bank of India in late 2016 over the lender’s handling of financial messaging system and credit guarantees that were at the center of the fraud, the Reuters report added.
The Enforcement Directorate has also filed a 12,000 page charge sheet in the case before a special court under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, PTI reported citing officials in New Delhi.
Modi and Choksi are reported to have left India before the news of the scam broke out.
Modi would be among the high-profile scam-accused Indians such as Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi who fled to the United Kingdom. India is already seeking extradition of Mallya so he can face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore.