Accused in the Rs 14,000-crore Punjab National Bank scam, fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi was seen in public for the first time since he fled India, London's The Telegraph newspaper reported. Soon after, during weekly briefing of the Ministry of External Affairs, spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that it's a misconception that the Nirav Modi case is not being diligently followed.
"Just like the Vijay Mallya case, we are doing everything possible to get Nirav Modi extradited from the United Kingdom," Kumar told the media on Friday. Kumar said the government was aware of Modi's whereabouts, which is why India sent an extradition request. "We are aware that (Nirav Modi) is in the UK, otherwise we wouldn't have requested for extradition," he said. "We made a request, based on information provided by the CBI and ED, in August last year. Despite what we see on television, the status remains the same."
"We had made a request for extradition to the UK government based on the investigations of the CBI and ED in August last year. Despite what we have seen on television today, the status of the request is the same. It is with the British government. Try to understand how the whole process works. Just because he has been spotted, doesn't mean he will be extradited to India," Kumar further said.
Modi was approached by journalists from the paper while walking through a busy London street on Friday. From footage shot by the paper's reporters and accessed by CNN-News18, he can be seen sporting a handlebar moustache and a jacket which the paper pegs at nearly £10,000. To successive questions on whether he is involved in a new business, likely to return to India or if he is on the run from the law, he replies "no comment".
Exclusive: Telegraph journalists tracked down Nirav Modi, the billionaire diamond tycoon who is a suspect for the biggest banking fraud in India's historyhttps://t.co/PpsjGeFEsy pic.twitter.com/v3dN5NotzQ
" The Telegraph (@Telegraph) March 8, 2019
The paper also claimed to have tracked down "an £8 million apartment" in London's West End where Modi is reportedly living now. The flat, is a three-bedroom one and is likely to cost a rent of nearly £17,000 or Rs 15,48,946 a month. Modi is one of the most wanted men in India. On 29 June last year, the Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against him.
The allegations against Modi are that the companies linked to the jeweller and his relatives received credit worth close to Rs 14,000-crore between 2011 and 2017 using false guarantees supplied by two officials of the Punjab National Bank. The fraud engineered by him is probably the country's largest ever bank fraud. A Red Corner Notice functions almost as an international arrest warrant and the fact that Modi is walking freely through London has begun to raise eyebrows in India. The Telegraph report also highlights that Modi seems to have begun a new diamond business in London. This would require an insurance number, which in turn would need clearance from the British government, which has so far failed to act on the Red Corner Notice. The Congress has reacted on Twitter to the news, with a jab at the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre. "Journalists of the @telegraph managed to track down Nirav Modi. Why was the Modi Govt unable to do so? Who is Modi trying to protect? Himself, Nirav Modi or the people who let him escape?" Congress tweeted.
Modi had also managed to travel across several countries even after information about his passport being revoked by the Indian government was flashed in the Interpol central database on February 24, the CBI had earlier said.
News of Modi's luxurious lifestyle comes hours after his sprawling seaside mansion near Mumbai was demolished on Friday using explosives. Raigad District Collector Vijay Suryawanshi had issued the demolition orders after the Enforcement Directorate had handed over the property in Raigad district, over 90 km from Mumbai.