Fugitive diamond jeweller Nirav Modi lives in a £8 million three-bedroom flat in London’s West End, the UK daily The Telegraph reported Saturday. The flat occupies half of a floor of the landmark Centre Point tower block with views across London, the report said, adding that the monthly rent for a property like this was understood to be about £17,000.
Modi, a key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore PNB scam who left India in January 2018, has Interpol Red Notices and
extradition requests from the CBI and ED pending against him.
“Yet The Telegraph can disclose that Modi is now involved in a new diamond business run from an office in Soho, just a few hundred yards from his new apartment. The business, which was incorporated last May, is linked to his flat in Centre Point although he is not listed as a director at Companies House,” the report said.
Companies House is the UK’s registrar of companies.
The exclusive report, headlined ‘India’s most wanted man Nirav Modi — accused of £1.5 bn fraud — living openly in London’, said Modi had “grown a handlebar moustache since becoming a fugitive”, and “takes a daily walk from his flat to his new office with his dog”.
Built in the 1960s, Centre Point was one of London’s early skyscrapers, comprising a 33-storey tower and some other blocks. In the 80s, pedestrians often used its entrance for a short cut to Oxford Street. As several corporates left London after the financial crisis of 2008, a property developer had the idea of converting it into 82 luxury flats valued at between £3 million and £55 million. In the Brexit-depressed business climate, however, half of these flats in this so-called “brutalist tower” and “posh ghost tower” remain empty.
Read | Congress, BJP engage in political slugfest after Nirav Modi tracked down to swanky London flat
“When the Telegraph spoke to him, he (Modi) was wearing a jacket made from Ostrich hide, costing at least £10,000,” the report said. The Telegraph posted on its Twitter handle a short video of Mick Brown, one of the two reporters on the story (the other is Robert Mendick, the paper’s Chief Reporter) confronting Modi in the street.
The video shows Modi trying to hail a cab, and repeatedly saying “Sorry, no comment” to the questions that Brown puts to him. At the end of the 2-minute, 13-second video, the jeweller, who is seen wearing a dark jacket, gets into a cab and leaves.
Quoting “a well-placed Government source”, the report said that “Modi was given a National Insurance number in recent months by the Department for Work & Pensions, and has been able to operate online bank accounts in the UK while wanted by Indian authorities.
“He has also been in contact with a wealth management company based in west London, which specialises in advice to rich foreigners,” the report said.
The Telegraph said “It is not clear why the British Government has given him a National Insurance number and yet has apparently failed to act on the Interpol red notice.”
A Red Notice, the report said, “is a request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition”, and not “an international arrest warrant”. The Telegraph said it had “put to the Home Office (the possibility) that Modi may have applied for asylum in the UK”, but the Home Office had said “it does not comment on individual cases”.
The report quoted an unnamed employee at the diamond company as initially saying “There is very little we can say. We are prohibited by an NDA [non disclosure agreement]”. She was then “summoned away”, the report said, and after returning, said “‘No comment’ to every question put to her”.
Modi, the report said, “could be seen this week on the phone at the window of his new offices”. The business, it said, describes itself on Companies House as “a wholesale trader in watches and jewellery and a retailer of watches and jewellery in specialised stores”.