The multi-crore fraud involving Punjab National Bank (PNB) and diamond merchant Nirav Modi came as a shocker as well as a reality check for the Indian banking system at the same time. While an internal enquiry by the bank has found that the Rs 14,000-crore fraud perpetrated by Modi took place with the help of some officials of the bank’s Brady House branch in Mumbai and also due to procedural lapses, authorities in India had revoked his passport. Still, Nirav Modi managed to travel across several countries even after information about his passport being revoked by the Indian government was flashed on the Interpol central database on February 24, according to CBI.
On June 11, the CBI said it had asked Interpol to issue a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against Modi. On June 18, a CBI spokesperson said Interpol had issued a Diffusion Notice against Nirav Modi on February 15. Not enough to deter Modi, questions have now been raised on why the Interpol notice was not enough to detect the fugitive jeweller. According to reports, Modi has fled to the UK where the absconding diamond businessman sought asylum claiming “political persecution” back home.
However, according to The Indian Express, Interpol has so far not issued the RCN. An RCN has immense statutory power. When Interpol issues one, all countries are duty-bound to apprehend the fugitive if she/he is in their country, or if she/he tries to leave. Instead, the Interpol had issued a Diffusion Notice,, which can only request several countries to keep an eye out for an alleged fugitive. In the meantime, Modi managed to travel to six major countries, as per CBI.
The Ministry of External Affairs on February 23 had suspended the passport. On June 18, the CBI said the information about the revocation had been updated in Interpol’s central database “and was available to all countries”. However, Modi had travelled on at least four dates across three countries using his revoked passport — on March 15, March 28, March 30 and March 31. He was able to travel because as there is no international common database on passports, according to IE report.
Presently, CBI’s hands are tied as the probe agency could do nothing when a fugitive is out of its legal jurisdiction. It can only wait for Interpol to issue an RCN. Only after there is a chance that Nirav Modi will be located and detained in whichever country he is found. India will then have to send an extradition request and fight a court battle in that country to get him back.