File image of Nirav Modi. (Source: PTI)

Extradition Warrant Issued Against Nirav Modi, Arrest Imminent, Say Sources

A London court issued an arrest warrant against fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, the main accused in the $2-billion scam involving Punjab National Bank, in response to a request by the Enforcement Directorate for his extradition in an alleged money laundering case, officials said on Monday.

They said the investigative agency has been recently informed about the issuance of the warrant by the Westminster Magistrate Court against Modi and he is expected to be put under formal arrest by the London Metropolitan police soon.

The warrant was issued a few days back and the Enforcement Directorate was subsequently informed, they said.

Modi, 48, will be subsequently brought before the court to secure bail and the legal proceedings for his extradition will begin thereafter, they said.

While the U.K. court and Scotland Yard said they cannot confirm or deny the warrant until an arrest has been executed and an accused has been formally charged, officials aware of the developments confirmed that a warrant was issued last week with authorities in India being made aware on Monday.

"The reason we do not comment on an arrest until it takes place is because the individual must be charged before anything can be established," a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said.

Now that a warrant has reportedly been issued, Modi wanted by India in relation to the Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case can choose to voluntarily surrender at a police station or have to be arrested by Metropolitan Police officers charged with executing the warrant.

The business tycoon's arrest, which could take place within days, would lead to Modi being produced before a district judge at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London to be formally charged, following which he is expected to seek bail.

The case will then follow a similar pattern through the U.K. courts as that of Vijay Mallya, who remains on bail since his arrest on an extradition warrant in April 2017 on Rs 9,000 fraud and money laundering charges. The 63-year-old businessman has since filed an application seeking leave to appeal against his extradition ordered by U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid last month.

Mallya's case is in final stages in that country.

Javid had certified India's extradition request for Modi earlier this month, triggering the legal process in the courts, kick-started with the issuance of a warrant.

News of the certification of India's request came just as Modi was tracked down to a three-bedroom flat in the Centre Point tower block of luxury apartments in the West End of London.

He is believed to have arrived in London last year and was able to travel in and out of Britain at least four times since his passport was cancelled by the Indian authorities in February 2018.

The revelation of Modi's whereabouts in London comes a day after his 30,000 sqft seaside mansion at Kihim beach in Maharashtra was demolished by authorities using explosives.

During some of his stay in London, he was reportedly also living in the heart of the city above his jewellery boutique called Nirav Modi on Old Bond Street, which has since closed down.

Modi, a diamond jeweller whose designs have been worn by Hollywood stars, is now believed to be running a new business, which describes itself on the U.K.'s Companies House register as a wholesale trader in watches and jewellery and a retailer of watches and jewellery in specialised stores.

Modi and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, are the main accused in the Punjab National Bank scam and they both left India before the details of the fraud came to light in January 2018.

Modi has been chargesheeted by both the agencies and the Enforcement Directorate has also attached his assets worth Rs 1,873.08 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and has also seized assets linked to him and his family worth Rs 489.75 crore.

Also read: PNB Fraud: Mumbai Court Issues Non-Bailable Warrant Against Nirav Modi’s Wife