DAINIK NATION BUREAU
Fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi, a key accused in the Rs. 14,000-crore PNB fraud case, can’t return to India as he is afraid of “getting lynched”, his lawyer told the court. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has dismissed the claim as “irrelevant” and said if he felt there were “security threats”, he should have filed a police complaint. Another objection raised by Nirav Modi was a comparison with Ravan, the demon king.
Nirav Modi’s lawyer Vijay Agarwal also argued against the application to declare Nirav Modi a fugitive under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
The ED told the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court that Nirav Modi had refused to join the probe despite acknowledging mails and summons to him and that he doesn’t want to return to India.
Mr Agarwal, however, said that Nirav Modi has informed the investigating agencies about his inability to return due to “security threats”.
“In a letter addressed to both the CBI and the ED, Modi had stated that he was not able to join the probe because of security threats (in India) from private persons, the families of those who have been detained (in the PNB case), landlords, the creditors who have not been paid and the customers whose jewellery was taken away by the ED,” he said.
The businessman’s reputation has also harmed, the lawyer indicated.
“My (Modi’s) 50-ft tall effigy was burnt in India. There was evidence of a mob lynching (against me) and I (Modi) was being compared with Ravan. I have been projected as evil and being made the poster boy of the bank fraud,” said Mr Agarwal on his client’s behalf.
He also claimed that Nirav Modi cannot be declared a fugitive as various legal requirements stipulated by the Fugitive Economic Offenders (FEO) Act have not been met by the investigating agency.
“The main reason the ED is seeking to declare Nirav Modi a fugitive is that he left India under suspicious circumstances on January 1, 2018. However, there was no criminal case (against him) when he had left the country,” Mr Agarwal said.
“They cannot just say that he left the country under suspicious circumstances. They need to specify what those suspicions were. Also there is no material on record to say that he is refusing to return to India,” he said.
Unlike liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is accused of a loan default of over Rs. 9,000 crore, Nirav Modi had no Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) when he left the country, Mr Agarwal argued.
He said that being a (jewellery) designer, Nirav Modi is a sort of an “artist” who cannot provide any financial information as desired by the ED.
“All my (Modi) finances were taken care of by my employees who are already in the custody of the investigating agency. I have no record or data. What are they going to investigate with me, as they have taken away all my source of information,” Mr Agarwal said.
Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, with the help of bank officials, allegedly cheated the Punjab National Bank (PNB) of Rs. 14,000 crore through issuance of fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs).