UK Authorities Stopped Pursuing Nirav Modi’s Case Due to ‘Lack of Interest’ on India’s Part.
Per an NDTV report, Indian authorities did not respond to the British Serious Frauds Office working on the case.
The news of billionaire fugitive Nirav Modi walking the streets of London, wearing a £10,000 ostrich hide jacket and living in a luxury apartment caused stir and prompted the Indian government to claim that it is taking all necessary action to bring Modi back. However, per a report by Sunetra Chaudhary in NDTV, India has not even responded to several queries from the UK authorities where the latter requested for more information.
Per the report, a legal team from the UK offered to come to India to pave way for bringing Nirav Modi back but allegedly did not receive any response from Indian authorities.
The report adds that according to the UK Serious Frauds Office (SFO), India first sent an alert regarding Modi in February 2018 under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). This was shortly after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a case against Modi in the Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank scam.
The MLAT facilitates a speedy procedure for nabbing offenders who have escaped to foreign countries. Under the treaty, the Home Ministry can directly forward summons or warrants to the Indian High Commission in London, which would then forward it to the central authority. In Nirav Modi’s case, reports NDTV, the UK central authority decided the SFO would be the appropriate agency to handle a request from India to take action against the fraudster.
In March 2018, per the NDTV report, the SFO confirmed to India that Modi was in London. They also assigned to the case, lawyer Barry Stancombe, a junior barrister who specialises in cases of fraud and money laundering.
Per the report, Stancombe and his team, while going through India’s request, realised they needed more document and information following which they wrote three letters to Indian authorities. The report further adds that the legal team also wanted to visit India to gather evidence on Nirav Modi in order to arrest him. However, they never got a response from India.
The Ministry of External affairs confirmed on Saturday that by August 2018, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had sent two extradition requests. When NDTV asked MEA about the UK authorities requesting more information, an MEA spokesperson said, “We are not aware of the request for any additional documents.”
By December, the report says citing sources, the SFO stopped pursuing Nirav Modi’s case due to “lack of interest” on the part of Indian authorities. A spokesperson for the SFO, when contacted by NDTV, said “We can neither confirm nor deny any SFO interest in the case.” Stancombe also refused to comment, the report adds.
The case pertains to cheating the state-run PNB through the fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) and Foreign Letters of Credit (FLCs) worth over USD 2 billion (about Rs 13,000 crore) by Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, both absconding since the first week of January 2018.