NEW DELHI: Celebrity jeweler Nirav Modi, wanted in India for loan fraud, is reportedly still travelling on his Indian passport, which was suspended by the government in February. He is believed to be in New York.
“If the host country accepts a traveler, the passport being suspended or cancelled is not an issue,” said sources.
Nirav Modi left India in the first week of January, before the CBI started investigating allegations that he had secured thousands of crores in loans he never paid back using fake guarantees supplied by officials of the Punjab National Bank (PNB).
Sources say the billionaire went from Mumbai to the UAE, then to Hong Kong and London. He left the UK in March and is now in New York.
“He left India on January 1. On February 2 he left UAE and on February 14 he left Hong Kong. We have evidence with us to prove that he travelled on these dates to these countries. We will be presenting it all to the host country soon,” an official revealed.
This means Nirav Modi had left when India requested Hong Kong authorities in March to arrest him and hand him over based on an extradition agreement of 1997.
“Our mission has informed that the Department of Justice of Hong Kong are still examining our request for provisional order of arrest of Nirav Modi. We are awaiting response from the Hong Kong authorities,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on April 12.
The request, according to the government’s written reply in parliament, was made on March 23.
While trying to bring super-rich fugitives like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya back to the country to face the law, the government has approved an order by which their properties can be confiscated without conviction and used to pay off lenders.
Punjab National Bank (PNB), the second largest government bank, says it has been swindled off Rs. 12,000 crores through the fraud guarantees for Nirav Modi and his relative, diamond merchant Mehul Choksi.