Fourteen months after he fled India, fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi has been arrested in London in connection with a Rs 13,500 crore PNB fraud case and was sent to police custody till March 29 after being denied bail.
The 48-year-old businessman was arrested from Holborn on Tuesday afternoon on behalf of Indian authorities and was produced before a judge at the Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
He was denied bail and will stay in custody until the next hearing on March 29.
According to informed sources, the Westminster court in its lengthy hearing observed that Nirav Modi should be kept in Metropolitan Police custody due to his involvement in fraud of high value funds and access to means of escape.
The Police made the arrest seven days after the Westminster Court issued an arrest warrant against Nirav Modi who left India days before the scam came to light in January 2018.
The court had issued arrest warrant after UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid referred to India’s extradition request for Nirav Modi.
The Interpol had issued a Red Corner Notice against Nirav Modi in July 2018 at the request of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The businessman’s whereabouts were a mystery as he had been spotted in New York, Hong Kong and other cities. Along with his uncle Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Group, Nirav Modi left the country before the CBI formally started investigating the PNB scam.
The ED had on May 24 and 26 last year filed chargesheets against both men. Non-bailable warrants were also issued against them.
The development came days after the The Telegraph newspaper in Britain claimed that Nirav Modi was spotted in London.
He was said to be living in a three-bedroom flat, occupying half the floor of the landmark Centre Point tower block, the daily reported.
It claimed Nirav Modi was involved in a new diamond business, run from an office in Soho, just a few hundred yards from his apartment. The new business was incorporated in May 2018, it said.
An extradition request against him had been pending before the UK authorities since September last year.
The ED on February 26 attached Rs 147 crore worth of property of Nirav Modi and his associate companies in connection with the PNB case.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Wednesday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP for describing the arrest of absconding PNB fraud case accused Nirav Modi in London as an achievement, asking who let him flee.
“Is it an achievement? Who let them escape from the country?” she said.
Speaking to reporters in Chandauli after visiting the family of Awadhesh Yadav, who was among the 40 CRPF troopers killed in February 14 suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, she said that her visit was not political.
“…I had spoken to the father of the trooper some days after the attack. He had said to me that ‘you people come as we want to meet you’. Thus I had come. My visit to his house is not connected to politics,” she said.
Asked about her three-day river ride campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh, of whose she is the in-charge for her party, Gandhi said, “It felt nice. And I feel that the organisation will be strengthened here and people will come to know that we believe in strong and new kind of politics.”
Gandhi’s journey, which began in Prayagraj on Monday, ended in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Modi, on Wednesday.
Asked when she is planning to kick off the second part of her Lok Sabha campaign, she said it will be “soon after Holi”.
Before going to Chandauli, Gandhi offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi for over half an hour.
It was her fourth temple visit since March 18, when she kicked off her river ride from Prayagraj.
On Monday, she visited the famous Hanuman Mandir in Prayagraj, followed by trips to the Sita Samahit Sthal temple in Bhadohi’s Sitamarhi and the Vindhyavashini temple in Vindhyachal on the second day of her campaign. She also offered a chadar at Kantit Sharif dargah on Tuesday.
She had arrived at the Vishwanath temple after deboarding from the motorboat at Dashavamedh ghat in Varanasi.
Reaching Ramnagar village, the ancestral village of late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, in Varanasi via road from Chunar in Mirzapur, where she had made a night halt on Tuesday, Gandhi then went by boat to Assi ghat where she held discussions with the fishermen community.
She also paid floral tributes to the former Prime Minister at Shastri Chowk and visited his residence.
A minor scuffle broke out between Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party workers after the latter raised pro-Modi slogans.
Gandhi later condemned the violence.
“When I was coming to Varanasi, few people raised slogans for the BJP… then people slapped them. We don’t believe in such kind of politics. The Congress workers had been beaten by the Britishers. We took all the pain and didn’t raise our hand (in return) but only tried to bring the truth,” she said.
She also accused Modi of not fulfilling any of the eight promises made to the people of the city, citing the BJP’s manifesto for Varanasi in 2014.
“This politics of advertisements is easy and it can be done by anyone,” she said.
Gandhi, before leaving Chunar in the morning, had also accused the BJP of systematically attacking every democratic institution in the country and advised the Prime Minister to “stop thinking that people are fools and understand that they see through all his antics”.
She also said that she was not afraid.
“Even if anything is done, and we are harassed, we will not feel afraid. We will continue our fight against them. The more we are harassed, the stronger will be our fight,” she said.
Gandhi, who was followed by Congress workers raising slogans like “Gali gali me shor hai, chowkidar chor hai” and “Dahan karne Modi ki Lanka, aa gai behen Priyanka”, also seem to have struck a chord with locals, many of whom who pointed out her resemblance to her grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Sanjay Kumar said, “Her arrival augurs a change. People are looking for a new ideology. Now people want to get away from the politics of temple and mosque.”
“We have felt helpless in the last five years, we feel cheated by the government,” he added.
Shahnawaz told IANS, “The BJP has not lived up to our expectations. We see a hope in Priyanka Gandhi and the Congress.”
(Anand Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)