Billionaire diamond jeweler Nirav Modi, who is wanted by the Indian government for his alleged involvement in the country’s biggest banking scam, has reportedly fled to Brussels from London.
He is understood to have taken a flight to Brussels on Tuesday or Wednesday, after press reports stated that he was in London seeking political asylum, and that the Indian High Commission was awaiting formal confirmation of his presence from the British government, The Times of India reported.
The 47-year-old diamond merchant is said to be traveling in and out of the UK freely, possibly using a Singaporean passport, the daily added.
On Monday, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation requested that Interpol issue a “red notice” for the location and provisional arrest of Modi and his brother Nishal, a Belgian national. On Tuesday, a special court in Mumbai issued a non-bailable warrant against Modi and other members of his family.
Interpol has reportedly informed the Indian government that no movement has been detected on Modi’s Indian passport since March 31. If he is traveling on a passport issued by another country, the Indian government cannot act, as the warrant is against his Indian passport.
Modi is accused of being a central figure in a US$2.2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank (PNB), India’s second largest state-run bank.
The bank has alleged that two jewelry groups, one headed by Modi and the other by his uncle Mehul Choksi, defrauded it of about $2.2 billion via transactions that date back to 2011. Over a period of several years, the accused allegedly raised credit from overseas branches of different Indian banks using illegal guarantees issued to them by bank staff at a branch in Mumbai.
It is alleged that bank staff fraudulently issued letters of undertaking (LoUs) without authorization, on behalf of companies belonging to Modi and Choksi. None of the transactions were routed through the centralized banking system, PNB officials allege.
Modi is also accused of defrauding the Bank of India, which filed a lawsuit against him and four of his companies in a Hong Kong court on April 7. The lawsuit is intended to recover money Modi received on the basis of illegally secured LoUs.