Modi seeks more time to reply to notice

Modi seeks more time to reply to notice

New Delhi: Former Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner Lalit Modi has sought more time to reply to a notice issued by the foreign ministry asking him why his passport should not be revoked.

But as the deadline for replying to the notice ended on Thursday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is investigating foreign exchange violation charges against Modi, will press the ministry to revoke his passport without waiting any more for his reply, two ED officials said, requesting anonymity.

The regional passport office (RPO), Mumbai, issued the show-cause notice on 13 October, after ED requested the foreign ministry to revoke Modi’s passport as he had refused to appear before the directorate despite repeated notices.

Modi, who is facing several charges of embezzling funds as the head of IPL, has been living in London since May.

ED, determined to bring him for questioning, has also issued a blue corner notice against him. This means he can be detained by law enforcement agencies at an international checkpoint in India or elsewhere, and be deported.

Modi was supposed to have replied to RPO’s notice within 15 days, which ended on Thursday. But his lawyer Mehmood Abdi said at a news conference in Mumbai that Modi has sought clarification on the deadline.

Abdi said the 15 days should be counted from the day the notice was received, which was 20 October. “So according to us, the deadline expires on 4 November. We have sent a letter to RPO seeking clarification on 26 October, but there has been no reply," he said. “We have also asked the RPO what documents they have relied on while issuing the notice."

The lawyer also denied the charge that Modi was absconding. “There is a threat to his life from some unwanted elements, and he will not return till the situation alters," Abdi said. “He is communicating with ED and other authorities from London."

One of the ED officials quoted above said the directorate is looking at three scenarios, depending on how the RPO handles Modi’s inability to respond to the show-cause notice.

Firstly, if the RPO rejects his request and revokes his passport, then he will be deported to India by the host country, in this case the UK, and will be arrested by ED on his arrival in India.

Secondly, if the RPO decides to give him an extension, ED will wait until the extension period expires.

Thirdly, if he is asked to surrender the passport at the nearest Indian mission and issued an interim passport, Modi will be left with no choice of further movement and will have to return to India eventually.

ED is likely to book Modi under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which gives the directorate the power to arrest and attach properties, Mint reported last week.

Officials said ED was making the move based on a police complaint filed by N. Srinivasan, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

ED is studying the complaint, filed for alleged misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs470 crore, to find out whether the provisions can be used for booking Modi under the PMLA, the officials said.