Chasing in vain
When the news of fugitive Nirav Modi living in a luxury flat near Oxford Street in London struck the nation, a sense of abject failure delved in. His lavish and nonchalant attitude for a fugitive makes a mockery of our country. His open living along with a new diamond business smirks at our laws which have, so far, failed in bringing him to justice. Modi was spotted loitering in the West London area. In a video released by The Telegraph, a journalist is seen pestering Modi to respond to a series of questions aptly reflecting the inquisitiveness of any foreigner who recognises him. And, to all of his questions, Modi has one classic response – No Comment! Carrying the tag of 'most-wanted' by India does not seem to reduce Modi's outings in the UK despite having the knowledge that he can very well be apprehended and extradited to India based on the Extradition Treaty. Nirav Modi's plot resembles a script from movies where the antagonist capitalises on the lacunae in the system and eludes before anyone realises. This is exactly what the diamantaire did. After defrauding Punjab National Bank in the worst con pulled up on an Indian lender, Nirav left the country and was spotted in New York. Red Corner Notice (RCN) was issued by Interpol back in July and, consequently, an extradition request was submitted to the UK government in August. Curiously, the UK government is yet to respond to it. It can be said that the UK government did not 'realise' that an Indian fugitive is taking refuge in its territory but that cannot be the case, especially since it is the government which has apparently provided Nirav with a National Insurance Number – requisite to legally work in the UK. Home Secretary has been awkwardly silent on Nirav's extradition request placed by India, however, grant of the national insurance number makes the matter disproportionate. Legally working in the UK and able to use online bank accounts means Modi has not felt even a bit of the legal machinations worked out in his home country to apprehend him. Interpol's Red Corner Notice has been reduced to a mere formality. The ambitiously drafted and enacted Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 (FEOA), seemed to help the government bring these conmen to justice by naming them as economic offenders and seizing their properties. However, only the latter part can be said to have been realised, that too not comprehensively.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had moved an extradition request to the UK authorities back in August 2018 after it was confirmed that Modi was in Britain. In a mail, the UK authorities had confirmed his presence after CBI sent a diffusion notice to the Interpol regarding the celebrity jeweller. As per The Telegraph, he has registered his diamond business as 'wholesale trade and retailer in watches and jewellery', which is linked to his address on the Oxford Street locality. His uncle, Choksi, meanwhile, has also settled in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Despite the government's efforts, it has so far failed to get him extradited to India. So we have two, amidst others, economic offenders on the loose and apparently cherishing their new lives after conning our public lender of a hefty amount under the garb of security protocols. Their lavish lifestyle winks at our laxity in bringing them back to home soil for a fair trial. Not much motivation can be derived from others' situation since Vijay Mallya, another economic offender, despite acknowledging his fraud, is on trial in a British Court. Instead of being extradited to India, he prefers to stay away from India and instead fight his case from the foreign land. And, in a bizarre turn of events if he wins the trial, then we may not be able to get him back. It would be a defeat on the Indian government's part despite his assets being sold off to recover the lent money under FEOA. Recently, Nirav Modi's Alibaug home was demolished and would be sold off to recover money. There are two questions which are appropriately placed in the equation of these economic offenders. The first is the question of recovering the money. Their assets might get us a major chunk of the amount back. However, the second question of bringing them to justice may remain unanswered since attempts made to apprehend them have so far not yielded anything but news of them eluding all the same. Now, all that remains is to see India's reinforced commitment to bring these conmen to justice, and how effective that may prove.