Agencies Blame MEA for Nirav Modi’s Flight: Can RCN Be of Use Now?

On Friday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) called for a meeting with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) to discuss how Nirav Modi managed to travel multiple times on a revoked Indian passport.

The CBI is the nodal agency for Interpol in India. The CBI officer of the Interpol department in the agency briefed the Additional Secretary of the MEA, Manpreet Vohra – who chaired the meeting – about the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) followed by India’s premier agency to locate Nirav Modi after his passport was revoked.

"Our officer shared with the MEA officer the procedure which is followed by the agency on a revoked passport. We also informed them about the several letters written by us to six countries seeking the whereabouts of Nirav Modi. " - Senior Officer, CBIDid MEA Follow the SOP on Revoked Passport?

“It is the responsibility of the MEA to inform all the countries, through diplomatic channels, where the agency suspected Modi could have fled,” said former ambassador, Anil Trigunayat.

The Quint approached an MEA official seeking answers to whether the Ministry informed the embassies of at least the six countries where the CBI suspected Modi could be present.

This article will be updated when the Ministry responds.

"In today’s meeting, the MEA officers wer only interested in knowing what the agencies have done so far in the Nirav Modi case. But they were evasive when we asked them what the ministry had done after his passport was revoked. " - Senior Official, CBI

Clearly, the CBI and ED are blaming the MEA for not doing all they could to bring Modi back.

“The CBI can only coordinate with the nodal agency of Interpol of the respective countries, but not beyond it. Had the MEA too built pressure through diplomatic channels, then probably we could have located Modi by now,” CBI official.

The purpose of the meeting was also to strengthen the revoked passport policy to prevent a goof-up like this from happening in the future.

Will a Red Corner Notice Really Help Find Modi?

Till now, investigating agencies have been clueless about the whereabouts of Modi. The agencies’ hopes are now pegged on the Red Corner Notice (RCN), which Interpol is yet to issue.

Here are some answers to how useful a RCN will really be in finally locating Nirav Modi, based on information from the agencies:

Why has the RCN not yet been issued against Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi?

A RCN is issued by the Interpol only after a chargesheet is filed by the investigating agency against the fugitive. In Nirav Modi’s case, the chargesheet was filed in May 2017. Subsequently, the agency wrote to the Interpol for the issuance of the RCN. The CBI is hopeful that an RCN will be put out in the next few days.

Why didn’t the CBI file a chargesheet earlier when it is an essential component to get an RCN issued?

The CBI took three-and-a-half months to file the chargesheet. According to the CBI senior officer The Quint spoke to, filing a chargeheet is a tedious and time-intensive process which involves recording statements of the witnesses, the alleged accused, and collecting documents and evidence. A dedicated team of officers probed the matter and did their best to file the first chargesheet at the earliest, the officer said.

What’s the next step after an RCN is issued?

After the RCN is issued for Modi and Choksi, Interpol will immediately send out the message to its nodal agencies in several countries. The nodal agencies will share the information with the immigration departments in their respective countries. These immigration departments will look out for the latest entries of Modi and Choksi’s passports. For example, if Modi last traveled to the UK, then the UK immigration department will share Modi’s local address in that country and inform the police so that they can arrest him. Simultaneously, the Government of India will also be informed about his last known location in the UK.

What happens after Modi and Choksi are located in a country?

After Modi and Choksi are located in a country, they will be arrested and produced before the local court within 24 hours. The court will grant them bail.Meanwhile, the respective country will write to the Government of India to send an extradition request within 30 days. In the extradition request, the Government of India has to provide valid grounds for why Modi and Choksi should be extradited.

How long is the extradition process?

The court of the concerned country will decide whether Modi and Choksi should be extradited or not after hearing both parties. The court proceedings could go on for months or years. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who fled India in March 2016, bas an extradition case that has been ongoing in a UK court for two years now.

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