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.
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.
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."
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.
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.