Days after a British daily reported that diamantaire Nirav Modi was spotted in London, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) issued a clarification Tuesday stating that the agency was “proactively” pursuing all issues pertaining to the extradition of Modi from the UK, PTI reported. The central agency probing Modi, the main accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, also dismissed media reports that Indian agencies “did not respond” in time when British investigators extended help.
In its report, The Telegraph had said it had tracked down Modi to an £8 million, three-bedroom apartment “occupying half of a floor of the landmark Centre Point tower block” in London’s West End, with views across the city.
“It has been wrongly reported in the news item that the UK SFO had confirmed to Indian authorities by March, 2018 that Nirav Modi was in the UK. In this connection, it is submitted that no such formal or informal communication was received by the ED from UK authorities in March, 2018 or at a later date, informing that Nirav Modi was in the UK,” PTI quoted ED as saying.
In its two-page clarification, the ED added that the National Central Bureau of Manchester, the nodal agency of the UK which deals with Interpol notices, had rather asked Indian agencies to “provide it” with intelligence inputs that suggested Modi’s presence in the UK.
The statement further clarified that UK government maintained a “consistent stand” that a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against an accused could only be executed through an “extradition request” and not through letters rogatory (LR) or the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
Therefore, the extradition request for Modi could only be sent after a chargesheet was filed against him, which the agency did so in May last year.
“An extradition request cannot be sent at the stage of the investigation. Accordingly, upon initiation of investigations by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in February last year against Nirav Modi and others, the first NBW was issued on March 5, 2018 and that was not acted upon by the UK government,” PTI quoted ED as stating.
The ED, Monday, filed a fresh chargesheet against Modi before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Mumbai and received a fresh NBW from a Mumbai court. The warrant has been sent to the Interpol and subsequently a fresh request for extradition was sent to the UK government, the agency said.
Adding that it had also sent a supplementary MLAT request in October last year for execution of an order of attachment of the UK-based assets of Modi, the ED said, “In response to these MLAT requests, the UK authorities had raised queries from time-to-time, which were promptly examined, and detailed replies were sent by the ED. These MLAT requests are yet to be executed by the UK authorities.”
The agency said the latest media reports reflected that the “understanding regarding the legal issues is contrary to the facts and established international protocols and procedures”. “This kind of misreporting and speculative news may create a wrong impression to the public at large,” it said.
The ED had said on March 9 that the United Kingdom’s home secretary has recently referred India’s request for extraditing the wanted businessman to a court for initiating legal proceedings against him.
CBI and ED are investigating Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam. According to the CBI and ED, Modi, Choksi, and companies owned by them took over Rs 13,000 crore from PNB through fraudulent Letters of Undertaking and Letters of Credit between 2011 and 2017. It was alleged that Modi and others committed the offence in connivance with certain bank officials.
(with PTI inputs)