The timing arguably works in BJP’s favour to raise the sentiment of the masses ahead of the polls. Nirav Modi’s arrest is a welcome relief for a country struggling to keep tabs on economic offenders. But learning from Mallya’s arrest, extradition is still a long shot.
- Nirav Modi was nabbed in the UK after a Magistrates’ Court issued a warrant on the behest of repeated efforts from India’s Enforcement Directorate to extradite the fugitive.
- What spurred the arrest was a video from a reporter of UK’s Daily Telegraph who traced Modi to an £8 million apartment in London’s West End earlier in March
- Opposition, lead by Congress has been crying foul having stated that they will expose the entire chain of events how the BJP government let Nirav Modi get away and waited for an opportune moment to initiate his arrest
- 31 Individuals accused of fraud and economic offences are holed up abroad, collectively owe Rs 40000 crores to Indian Banks and Public Institutions.
The main accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud which shook India’s banking system, Nirav Modi, was nabbed by Scotland Yard in London.
The news came because of repeated efforts by Enforcement Directorate (ED) after the UK confirmed Nirav Modi’s presence back in August 2018. UK’s Crown Prosecution Service informed India on March 18 that the Westminster Magistrates’ court had issued a warrant against Modi.
India had been trying to tighten the net from all sides with the Immigration Bureau, on the behest of the IT department, issuing a Look Out notice in February 2018 and the Interpol issuing a red corner notice in June.
What spurred the arrest was a video from a reporter of UK’s Daily Telegraph who traced Modi to an £8 million apartment in London’s West End earlier in March. Modi entered the UK on a ‘golden visa’, a tier-1 investor visa after his passport had already been revoked by the Indian government.
Catch them if you can
Over the years, several financial criminals have been able to deceive India and escape to foreign locations. This has been a major talking point in parliamentary discussions.
Escaping India is a rather easy task for fugitives. Specialized firms in Middle East help rich clients surrender their Indian passports and take up citizenship in countries seeking huge sums of investment.
Modi had managed to flee India in January 2018 even before CBI had been able to lodge a FIR on the basis of PNB’s complaint.
A report, submitted in April 2018, by the MEA in the Lok Sabha stated a vast array of fugitives have fled India over the years. This includes Vijay Mallya (Rs. 9,000 Crore); Nirav Modi-s aide Mehul Choksi (Rs. 12,636 crore); Jatin Mehta of Winsome Diamonds (Rs. 7,000 crore); ex-IPL Chief Lalit Modi (Rs. 125 crore); Chetan and Nitin Sandesara of Sterling Biotech (Rs. 5,000 crore); Ashish Jobanputra of aABC Cotspin (Rs. 770 crore); diamond trader Ritesh Jain (Rs. 1,500 crore); Sabhya Seth (Rs. 390 crore) and Sanjay Bhandari (Rs. 150 crore).
Nirav Modi is among a list of high-profile offenders whose extradition is sought by India. Credits: Mint
A committee was set up (with representation from the RBI, MHA, MEA, the ED and the CBI) to identify measures aimed at stopping defaulting promoters from fleeing the country. This also included a check on possible dual citizenship. The committee suggested mechanisms and changes required in existing laws.
Definitely handy for the BJP
The Nirav Modi catch, right before the general elections, is big diplomatic win for the current government. The topic has been a mainstay with opposition.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera had said in a press conference in New Delhi that Congress will expose how PM Modi i.e ‘Desh Ka Chowkidar’ and his government ‘slept and snoozed’ while ‘Chhota Modi’ i.e Nirav Modi looted crore (of rupees), fled the country, posed with the PM, globe-trotted, opened a new diamond business in London which has a Panama Papers connection. He further said:
“ If the Congress can expose this entire chain of events and trace his trail, why could the CBI, ED, and other investigative agencies not do the same after 14 months of his escape? Is it not a clear-cut case of criminal complacency, complicity and connivance by Modi government with economic offenders like Nirav Modi,”
But the news of Modi’s arrest in London was quick to change the perception in the country.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley in a blog post on Wednesday said the Nirav Modi arrest was part of the government’s effort and busts the fake campaign by the opposition
Finance minister Arun Jaitley in a blog post said that the government had taken ‘several decisive anti-black money measures’ including legislation of black money law and confiscation of properties of fugitives. He said:
“Here is a strong unanswerable case against him and hopefully India will get him back. Whoever cheats India and its institutions cannot get away. He will be found out. This also busts the fake campaign that the present government had anything to do with him.”
The Narendra Modi-led government has set in motion a drive against economic offenders in recent months. With Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi from the UK, over the last three months it has extradited alleged AgustaWestland middlemen Christian Michel and Rajeev Saxena and corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar (Air India fraud) from the UAE. It has also seen expedition in the ICICI – Videocon scam. After Modi, India has had another success as Sterling Biotech offender Hitesh Patel was nabbed in Albania.
The other party in the offence
Mehul Choksi gave up his Indian citizenship and has been living in the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda. The island allows wealthy foreigners to become citizens in exchange for investing in the country. Choksi was granted citizenship on January 15, 2018.
Attempts are underway to bring back the other offender in the scam, Mehul Choksi from Antigua
After the arrest of Modi in London, investigation agencies have said that Mehul Choksi’s extradition process has started in Antigua. Choksi has also moved a fresh application in a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Mumbai to request cancellation of a non-bailable warrant against him. His counsel has claimed that the fugitive is unable to return to India due to health constraints.
Real Chances of Nirav Modi being extradited
Modi has filed a response before the PMLA court opposing the ED’s complaint to declare him a “fugitive economic offender” under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. He also offered to post £500,000 for bail but was rejected. The court remanded him in custody till March 29.
The fugitive diamantaire will now be brought before the court to secure bail and the legal proceedings for his extradition will begin thereafter. The legal processes will be similar to that of Vijay Mallya, whom the court decided had to be extradited. Having said that, fugitives still have the right to appeal, as important issues of liberty are involved for an alleged offender.
MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar has said that there was no delay in Modi’s arrest and rapid action is going on for completion of his extradition
The Indian government is ‘committed to expeditious extradition’ of Modi. MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar has said that there was no delay in Modi’s arrest and rapid action is going on for completion of certain processes. He said at a media briefing:
“There was no delay which can be attributed to our side. There were certain processes which had to be completed, and that is how he was arrested,”
If the Modi extradition does take place, it will certainly helpful in reinforcing the Government’s stand against corruption. It will also be big step towards improving India’s earlier track record of failing to get major offenders extradited successfully.
However, with the timing of the news raising scepticism, one is left to wonder if this is a result of tireless efforts falling in place, or just a publicity stunt to improve the BJP’s fortunes in the coming elections.
- The news of Modi’s arrest, and recent progress in cases like ICICI fraud and Sterling Biotech scam will add to a wave of positive sentiment built by BJP among the masses after the Balakot Strike ahead of the upcoming elections
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed in a blog post that this busts the fake campaign that government had anything to do with the lapses in the case of the fugitive economic offender.
- The timing of the arrest has raised eyebrows, as the financial crackdown coincides with PM Modi’s MaiBhiChowkidar campaign which narrates fight against corruption as one of the government’s core visions for India
- MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar stated that there will be no delay in the extradition. Mallya was arrested in December but still roams around freely on bail in the UK. What makes the government so confident about Nirav’s extradition?
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