New Delhi: The United Kingdom should not be viewed as a safe haven for wanted criminals of other countries, India said on Monday, even as Britain confirmed fugitive Indian diamantaire Nirav Modi’s presence on its soil.
India’s clear message was conveyed to UK Minister of State for Countering Extremism Baroness Williams by Union Minister of State (MoS) for Home Kiren Rijiju at a meeting here. Raising the issue of fugitives such as Nirav Modi, liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who were wanted by New Delhi for frauds and financial misappropriations, Rijiju said Britain should not be viewed as a safe haven for men wanted by the law of the other country for various offences, a statement issued by the Home Ministry said.
The MoS conveyed to Williams that while India respects the courts and will pursue legal procedures in Britain to bring back wanted men, New Delhi expects the cooperation of the UK government. Allaying concerns over prison conditions in India, Rijiju said there are absolute safeguards against human rights violations in Indian prisons, the statement said.
Top officials said the UK delegation has confirmed that Nirav Modi, who is at the centre of a money laundering case linked to the over Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, is currently in that country. “UK authorities have confirmed Nirav Modi’s presence in Britain,” an official privy to the meeting said.
Williams has also assured Rijiju of Britain’s full cooperation in the Government of India’s efforts to expedite Nirav Modi, liquor baron Vijay Mallya and others extradition, the official said.
Modi, who is absconding and has not joined the ED probe in the case till now, and others are being probed under various criminal laws after the fraud came to light this year following a complaint by PNB that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of over Rs 13,000 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.
“I had a very useful meeting with UK Minister Baroness Williams. We discussed about India-UK joint efforts to deal with terrorism and extremism. We also agreed to cooperate in the matters of extradition and sharing of information,” Rijiju told reporters after the hour-long meeting.
Letter Rogatories (LRs) in the cases lodged against Nirav Modi by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the CBI and the Income Tax Department were sent to the UK Central Authority (UKCA) on March 19, April 14 and April 15 respectively.
The UKCA has forwarded these LRs to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for execution and conveyed that action would be taken on implementation of the ED LR. The ED and the SFO have entered discussions on the way forward.
Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly cheating PNB, the country’s second largest lender, to the tune of more than Rs 13,000 crore.
The duo and others are also being probed by other central agencies after the fraud came to light this year following a complaint by PNB that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank. Both Nirav Modi and Choksi were said to have left the country before criminal cases were lodged against them.
India is also pushing for the extradition of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, who is on trial for the UK court to rule if he can be extradited to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores.
In the case related to Mallya, at a case management conference hearing held at the request of Mallya’s lawyers on May 24, the judge has scheduled closing submission by the defence on June 21 and closing submission by India on July 26.
The hearing for final arguments in the case was deferred from July 11 to July 31. In a separate development, the State Bank of India-led consortium of 13 banks won a case on May 8 wherein the Queen’s Bench Division of the commercial court in England’s High Court of Justice dismissed his plea to overturn a worldwide order freezing his assets and ruled that Indian banks were entitled to recover their funds from his assets in the UK.
The last date for lodging an appeal against this decision by Mallya in the UK Court of Appeal was May 30. He has appealed on May 29.