Diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who fled India last year after being accused of siphoning off Rs 13,000 crore from the Punjab National Bank, is living at an apartment in London’s West End, The Telegraph UK reported on Friday.
The daily said Modi lives on half a floor of the Centre Point Tower Block, in an apartment whose rent is likely to be around £17,000 per month (Rs 15.5 lakh), and which costs around Rs 73 crore.
Though Modi’s bank accounts in India have been frozen and an Interpol red notice has been issued against him, the fugitive has become involved in a new diamond business in Soho locality, the daily said. The business is close to his home and was incorporated last May.
Britain’s Department of Work and Pensions has also granted the businessman a National Insurance number, The Telegraph reported quoting unidentified government officials. Modi has been able to operate online bank accounts in the United Kingdom, and is in touch with a wealth management company in West London.
The Telegraph said Nirav Modi walks his dog from his home to his new office every day. He was wearing a jacket made of ostrich hide, costing at least £10,000 (Rs 9.1 lakh) when a reporter tried to talk to him. Modi repeatedly answered “no comment” to questions put to him.
“There is very little we can say,” an employee at the Soho office said. “We are prohibited by a non-disclosure agreement.”
On Friday, authorities in Maharashtra’s Alibaug destroyed Nirav Modi’s bungalow using explosives. Raigad District Collector Vijay Suryawanshi had said in January that the bungalow was illegally built and violated several norms. The Enforcement Directorate had attached the bungalow as the agency is investigating Modi in connection with the Punjab National Bank fraud.
In December, the Centre had informed the Rajya Sabha that was living in the United Kingdom. Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh said the government has sent two extradition requests for him.
Modi’s uncle Mehul Choksi in January surrendered his Indian citizenship and passport to authorities in Antigua and Barbuda. Choski had also fled India last year. In August, he claimed he had “lawfully applied” to become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda to expand his business interests in the Caribbean. The move to surrender his Indian citizenship is seen as an attempt to avoid extradition to India. Antiguan authorities are hearing India’s case for Choksi’s extradition.