A week after fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi was located in the UK, the prime accused in the PNB fraud case Saturday told a court in Mumbai that he cannot return to India due to safety concerns and also because his case had been politicised.
Calling the attempt a usual “civil banking transaction,” Modi’s reply also said, ” the act has been given a colour of criminality.”
“It can be said that the motivation for the prosecution by the PNB (Punjab National Bank) is the desire of
the bank to avoid its liability towards its co-bankers and put the blame….to avoid any criticism regarding poor financial performance by PNB,” it alleged.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had earlier sought an application to declare Modi a fugitive economic offender under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA) before the special court for cases filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Filing a reply to the ED’s petition, Modi’s lawyer said the diamantaire feared for his safety given the threats made against him “as illustrated by the burning of his effigies”. Statements made by politicians from all parties showed that they had “prejudged the issue of his guilt” and his case was being used for political gains, Modi’s lawyer further contended.
Modi also claimed that the ED tried to “falsely implicate” him for offenses “backed by shallow claims,” and that he had been duly replying to all ED summons.
However, according to the ED, Modi failed to respond to its summons thrice, after which it filed the petition under the FEOA. According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi cheated the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of Rs 14,000 crore by fraudulently securing Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) to obtain credit overseas.