Billionaire Modi flees to UK, claiming political asylum

A Nirav Modi showroom

A day after an United Kingdom newspaper reported that Nirav Modi, who is at the centre of a $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud case, had fled to United Kingdom to claim political asylum, CBI on Monday approached the Interpol and sought a Red Corner Notice against the fugitive diamondtaire.

Indian authorities are investigating Mr Modi and his uncle and business partner, Mehul Choksi, also a diamond merchant, for allegedly defrauding PNB of 2.8 billion rupees (Dh161 million). It is alleged that Nirav Modi and others had cheated PNB in connivance with certain bank officials by getting LOUs issued fraudulently without following due procedure, making the bank incur a huge loss. Nirav Modi is in Britain now and the Indian government has asked the British government to send the accused back.

This figure is said to be just a part of the total losses. However, he was seen in a photograph with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at World Economic Forum which was organised in Davos.

An LoU is a guarantee given by an issuing bank to Indian banks having branches overseas to grant short-term credit to the applicant.

The Enforcement Directorate, India's financial fraud-investigating agency, had unsuccessfully approached Interpol in March for an worldwide arrest warrant.

The PNB came to light as the Indian government tries to reduce crippling debts accumulated by state-run banks.

It recently announced a $32-billion recapitalisation plan to help them clean up their books ahead of the general election in 2019.

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.

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 previous year. The case has soured British-Indian relations.

India's PTI news agency quoted unnamed sources as saying that Williams confirmed in the meeting Modi's presence in Britain but that she had promised London's full cooperation.

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