PNB fraud accused Nirav Modi will remain in police custody in London till his extradition hearing on 29 March. (HT)
PNB fraud accused Nirav Modi will remain in police custody in London till his extradition hearing on 29 March. (HT)

Nirav Modi arrested in London on India's extradition request, denied bail

  • While Nirav Modi informed court of his intention to contest India’s extradition request, he also offered to post £500,000 for bail—which was rejected
  • Nirav Modi's arrest, on the same day that Narendra Modi launched the 'Main Bhi Chowkidar' campaign, should help BJP influence electoral optics

New Delhi: A little over a year after jeweller Nirav Modi fled India after allegedly defrauding Punjab National Bank of 14,356 crore, the fugitive diamantaire was arrested in London on Tuesday, said British police on Wednesday.

He was later denied bail by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Nirav Modi was tracked down by reporters of the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper to an £8 million apartment in London’s West End earlier this month.

While the arrest, just three weeks ahead of the kick-off to the 17th general elections, is no doubt a big victory for India’s investigative agencies, it is also something that should come politically handy for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Nirav Modi arrest will also blunt the allegation levelled by the Congress against the central government for its failure to bring the fugitive businessman to book.

The timing of the arrest, on the same day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted an outreach for his anti-corruption campaign around the slogan, Main Bhi Chowkidar, or “I am a watchman too", should help the BJP influence electoral optics.

To be sure, Nirav Modi’s trial will, as in the case of fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya, likely be long-drawn-out. The outcome will depend on how Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) contest Nirav Modi’s attempts to oppose extradition.

Even as the Narendra Modi-led government has set the wheels in motion to bring back Vijay Mallya to India from the UK, over the last three months it has extradited from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) alleged AgustaWestland middlemen Christian Michel and Rajeev Saxena and corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar, who is accused of allegedly causing losses to Air India.

This comes against the backdrop of a crackdown on those accused in various white-collar crimes, including former ICICI Bank boss Chanda Kochhar.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in a blog post on Wednesday said, “From legislation of black money law to confiscation of property of fugitives, several decisive anti-black money measures have been taken by the government."

At the same time, ED—armed with the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act—is set to sell 173 seized paintings and 11 vehicles belonging to Nirav Modi, with the proceeds accruing to ED as recovery of the fraud amount, the agency confirmed.

On Wednesday, a Mumbai Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court also issued a non-bailable warrant against Nirav Modi’s wife, Ami Modi. Her last known location was in the US.

“This is an extremely positive step. UK had acknowledged India’s extradition request and acted on it to issue an arrest warrant. Obviously, Nirav Modi is going to contest extradition, but we have enough and more evidence to corner him and hope that he will be sent back," said a person familiar with the developments.

Scotland Yard confirmed that Nirav Modi had been arrested on Tuesday from Holborn underground station in London, following which the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday denied bail to the fugitive jeweller and sent him to police custody until the next hearing on 29 March.

While Nirav Modi informed the court of his intention to contest India’s extradition request, he also offered to post £500,000 for bail. Judge Marie Mallon, however, dismissed his request, fearing flight.

The London court had issued an arrest warrant against Nirav Modi, the main accused in the 14,356 crore PNB fraud case, in response to a request by ED for his extradition from the UK in a money laundering case, officials said on Monday.

In July, Interpol had issued a red corner notice against Nirav Modi, his brother Neeshal and close aide Subhash Parab, an executive with the Nirav Modi group.

The notice allows security agencies in all Interpol member-countries to track down and arrest the suspect so that extradition proceedings can be started against them.

CBI, too, had requested the UK authorities to detain Nirav Modi in August last year, with the UK confirming his presence on its soil.

In February 2018, based on a complaint by PNB, CBI filed its first case in the matter against Nirav Modi and his uncle, Mehul Choksi. While both fled the country before the case was registered, Choksi gave up his Indian citizenship and took the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda in November 2017.

Lawyers of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi declined to comment on the matter.

PNB also did not officially comment on the matter.