Opposition leaders on Wednesday called diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s arrest mere symbolism ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Modi, who is wanted for allegedly duping the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore, was arrested in London on Tuesday.
“They (BJP) had only helped him flee the country, now they are bringing him back. They are bringing him back for the elections, they will send him back after elections,” Ghulam Nabi Azad said while reacting to the development. The opposition has been targeting the government for allegedly helping Nirav Modi flee the country just weeks before the CBI filed the case.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted:
Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Hardeep Singh Puri, however, hailed the arrest as an achievement for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “You can run, but cannot hide from the country’s #Chowkidar. As wheels of justice grind, after Vijay Mallya, fugitive Nirav Modi has been arrested in London. Clear sign that this is not the India which will allow economic offenders to loot the country & evade the long arm of law (sic),” Mr Puri tweeted. ‘Chowkidar’ or watchman is the term that the BJP is using for PM Modi in the run up to the elections to promote his image of an anti-corruption crusader.
Nirav Modi was arrested in London on behalf of the Indian authorities and produced in court today. India had asked Britain in August to extradite the fugitive jeweller, one of the main suspects charged in the Rs. 13,000 crore loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB), India’s biggest banking fraud.
Police said Nirav Modi, 48, had been arrested in the Holborn area of central London on Tuesday and was due to appear at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
Punjab National Bank, India’s second-largest state-run bank, in 2018 said that two jewelry groups headed by Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi had defrauded it by raising credit from other Indian banks using illegal guarantees issued by rogue PNB staff.
Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, who have both denied wrongdoing, left India before the details of the fraud became public.
Three days ago, UK issued a warrant against Nirav Modi following a request from India’s Enforcement Directorate for his extradition. But a decision on his extradition cannot be taken without a long-drawn legal process, as is happening in the case of another high-profile Indian businessman, fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya.
In December, a British court agreed Vijay Mallya, could be extradited to his homeland to face fraud charges. Vijay Mallya is currently appealing the decision.