The British authorities have received no response from the Indian government to several queries for information about fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who is living in the United Kingdom, NDTV reported on Monday. A legal team that offered to visit India to facilitate action against Modi also got no response, unidentified officials told the news network.
Modi, who fled India in January 2018, is wanted for allegedly duping the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore. NDTV said, citing officials in the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, that India first sent an alert under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in February 2018. The Union Home Ministry, under the treaty, is able to forward summons or warrants to the Indian High Commission in London, which can forward it to the central authority in Britain.
The authority decided that the Serious Fraud Office should investigate India’s request for action against Modi. In March, the office told Indian officials that the diamond merchant was living in the United Kingdom. The office also assigned a lawyer – Barry Stancombe – to work with Indian officials.
Stancombe and his team, going through India’s requests, realised many more documents were required to proceed against the businessman. Subsequently, they sent three requests to India, but received no response. The team also offered to visit India to collect evidence to arrest the businessman, but once again, Indian authorities did not respond, NDTV reported.
The news network said, citing officials, that the Serious Fraud Office stopped pursuing the case by December 2018 due to “lack of interest” from India. However, when contacted, a spokesperson for the office said: “We can neither confirm nor deny any SFO interest in the case.” Stancombe also refused to comment.
On March 9, the Ministry of External Affairs had said it had requested Modi’s extradition, but not received any response from UK authorities. Both extradition requests, by the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation, are being “considered” by the UK government, ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
“You are wrong if you think we are not pursuing Nirav Modi case, just like we were the Vijay Mallya case.” he added. “We will take all efforts necessary to extradite Nirav Modi.”
Modi is living at an apartment in London’s West End, British newspaper The Telegraph 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.