Global hunt begins for Nirav Modi, Interpol lookout notice issued
Almost one-and-a-half months after Nirav Modi siphoned off around Rs 11,300 crore through 150 fake letters of understanding issued by the Punjab National Bank (PNB) and fled the country, the Centre swung into action on Friday by suspending the celebrity diamantaire's passport and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) approached the Interpol to track him and his family down.
Interpol's website says, "This (diffusion) is less formal than a notice but is also used to request the arrest or location of an individual or additional information in relation to a police investigation. A diffusion is circulated directly by an NCB (CBI in this case) to the member countries of their choice or to the entire Interpol membership and is simultaneously recorded in Interpol's information system."
The government also suspended the passports of Modi's uncle and business partner Mehul Choksi for four weeks on the advice of the Enforcement Directorate. Both Modi and Choksi were named in a complaint filed by the CBI regarding fraudulent transactions of more than Rs 11,300 crore.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a press release said, "On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the passport issuing authority in the Ministry of External Affairs has today suspended the validity of passports of Mr. Nirav Deepak Modi and Mr. Mehul Chinubhai Choksi with immediate effect for a period of four weeks u/s 10(A) of the Passports Act 1967."
As per procedure, the passport has been suspended for four weeks giving time to the respective passport holders to respond as to why the documents should not be cancelled.
"Mr. Nirav Deepak Modi and Mr. Mehul Chinubhai Choksi have been asked to respond within one week as to why their passports should not be impounded or revoked under Section 10 (3) (c) of the Passports Act 1967. If they fail to respond within the stipulated time, it will be assumed that they have no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation," the statement added.
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told India Today TV, "If you see our press statement, we have, on the advice of ED, suspended the passports. This is a step towards revocation of passports giving them four weeks' time to respond."
The ministry, which is unaware of their location, added that Modi is not in touch with any of its official.
On the diamantaire's photo with Prime Minster Narendra Modi at the recent 48th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, the MEA spokesperson said, "This gentleman was not part of the official delegation. There was no meeting between the PM and this gentleman. It was an impromptu photo op."
The MEA also said that "nothing was planned" when asked about the diamond manufacturer's presence at the WEF.
Now, Modi can't travel to another country unless he has a passport issued by another country. It is illegal in India to possess passport of another country if one already has one issued by the government. Though Modi has couple of options like applying for citizenship of another country or requesting Belgium for travel document if he was born there.
According to sources, deporting Modi could be a difficult and long process.
Ramesh Mehta, a diamond merchant in Antwerp who had met Modi and his family, told India Today TV that other merchants never expected a scam of this proportion.
He also said that maybe Modi took the "high risk for his big dreams and selling his products to actors and big people". "Somewhere, he made a mistake," he said.