By SM.21 Mar, 2019
LONDON: Nirav Modi, the celebrity jeweller wanted in a 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank scam, was arrested in London on Tuesday after a yearlong chase that spanned several countries and became symbolic of India"s inability to catch high-profile offenders.He was picked up yesterday from a metro station Holborn, central London, said officers in the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the case against him.
Produced within hours at the Metropolitan Magistrate"s court, he had offered half-a-million pounds as bail bond, but the court turned it down. He will be in jail till March 29, when the next hearing will take place.
Judge Marie Mallon said she was remanding Nirav Modi to custody "given the high value of amount involved in the allegations, and the access you may have to means of escape.... I have substantial grounds to believe that you may fail to surrender".
A week ago, UK issued a warrant against him following India"s request for his extradition. But a decision on the extradition cannot be taken without a long-drawn legal process, as is happening in the case of fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who fled to UK in 2017 as banks tried to recover loans to the tune of Rs. 9000 crore from him.
UK has recently approved Vijay Mallya"s extradition, but the matter is now pending with its Home Office.
The External Affairs Ministry said they welcome Nirav Modi"s arrest. "Government of India continues to actively follow up this matter with the authorities concerned in the UK, with a view to have Nirav Modi extradited to India at the earliest," the External Affairs Ministry said.
Nirav Modi is believed to be living at a 33-storey Centre Point Apartment complex in West End, the post theatre district in London. Last month, he was sighted in London, walking around in an expensive ostrich-hide jacket. He had brushed off the questions of a reporter who spotted him, with a "no comments". The Telegraph, where the reporter worked, later reported that he has started a diamond business in Soho after acquiring necessary permits.
The 48-year-old billionaire had skipped the country last year, weeks before the detection of the Rs. 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank scam. His relative Mehul Choksi, who was also wanted in the case, has been granted citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.
The Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the scam, which involved fake guarantees in the name of the state-run lender to secure loans overseas.
The arrest is expected to come as a shot in the arm for the BJP, which is under Congress attack in the matter. The Congress has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of aiding industrialists like Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.