Nirav Modi, the billionaire jeweller at the heart of a more than $2 billion fraud case in India, has fled to the UK, where he is claiming political asylum, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing Indian and British officials. Britain’s Home Office said it does not provide information on individual cases. Nirav Modi could not be contacted by Reuters for comment on the FT report. 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 overseas branches of other Indian banks using illegal guarantees issued by rogue PNB staff at a Mumbai branch over several years.
Nirav Modi is in London trying to claim asylum from what he calls “political persecution”, the FT reported. India’s ministry of external affairs told the FT the Indian government was waiting for the country’s law enforcement agencies to approach them before pushing for an extradition, which had thus far not happened. The ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment outside regular working hours. India is already seeking the extradition of Vijay Mallya, a liquor and aviation tycoon, over unpaid loans to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines after the businessman and co-owner of the Formula One Force India team moved to Britain in March last year.
Indian federal police filed charges against more than 25 people in May including Modi, Choksi, former PNB chief Usha Ananthasubramanian, two of the bank’s executive directors and three companies belonging to Nirav Modi. Modi and Choksi have denied any wrongdoing.
Last month, senior executives at the bank were accused by the Indian police, in a charge sheet filed in court, of misleading the central bank in late 2016 over the lender’s handling of the financial messaging system and credit guarantees that were at the centre of the fraud.