Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

Fugitive Indian billionaire jeweler seeks asylum in Britain

Fugitive Indian billionaire jeweler seeks asylum in Britain

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the bank fraud case involving Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi and filed a First Information Report (FIR) against them. The ministry submitted a request to Chinese authorities overseeing Hong Kong for the provisional arrest of the jeweler, who was classed as an absconder, to try to stop Modi from leaving Hong Kong before seeking to extradite him.

PNB, in its complaint, directly accused Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal, and Choksi of conniving with two bank officials to commit the fraud.

Greenery in the pocket: Some prominent Indians who've sought refuge in United Kingdom have been men of considerable financial means-music director Nadeem Saifi, former IPL administrator Lalit Modi, Kingfisher Airlines' Vijay Mallya, and, the most recent, diamantaire Nirav Modi, accused of perpetrating the biggest fraud on Indian banking system, of $2 billion.

The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.

His high-end eponymous brand has stores in several of the world's major cities and boasts celebrity customers including actresses Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet and Bollywood megastar Priyanka Chopra.

Punjab National Bank, India's second-largest state-run bank, said earlier in 2018 that two jewellery groups headed by Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi had defrauded it of about $2.2 billion by raising credit from other Indian banks using illegal guarantees issued by rogue PNB staff. Modi and his associates, it is alleged, defrauded the Punjab National Bank of around Rs 13,000 crore has part of their scam.

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Modi, the third generation of his family to go into the diamond trade, is worth $1.73 billion according to Forbes, placing him 85th on India's rich list.

India's government is trying to reduce the crippling debts of the country's embattled state banks, including PNB.

PNB last month posted a record quarterly loss for an Indian lender. Nirav Modi could not be contacted by Reuters for comment on the FT report.

Mallya is wanted in connection with allegedly unpaid loans to his beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines after he absconded to Britain in 2016.

The fact that Modi was in Britain was confirmed by UK Minister for Counter Terrorism Baroness Williams who assured Indian government of full cooperation for the extradition of the diamond merchant.

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