Absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi, a key accused in the Rs 14,3547 crore Punjab National Bank Fraud Case has stated that he cannot return to India as he is afraid of “getting lynched”. The statement was issued by his lawyer on Saturday, reports The Times of India.
However, according to The Hindu, the Enforcement Directorate has dismissed the claims asserting that he should have filed a police complaint if he truly feared security threats upon returning. It must be reminded in this context that Nirav Modi’s uncle and alleged partner in the fraud, Mehul Choksi, had earlier cited similar reasons for his not returning.
He was being compared with ‘Ravan’
Nirav Modi’s lawyer Vijay Agarwal countered ED’s application to announce him as fugitive under Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, in front of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court Judge MS Azmi. ED, however, refused to accept these statements claiming them to be irrelevant to the case, further inferring that he is unwilling to return to India.
According to The Week, ED has also claimed that Nirav Modi has refused to join the investigation despite answering to several emails. In a letter addressed to both ED and CBI, Agarwal has quoted Modi stating that,
“My 50-ft tall effigy was burnt in India. There was evidence of a mob lynching and I was being compared with ‘Ravan’. I have been projected as evil and being made the poster boy of the bank fraud.”
"I am being compared to Ravana, my effigies were burnt during Holi in India. Will I not be worried about my security? My inability to return due to such reasons is being called my refusal to return," Nirav Modi's lawyer tells special court in Mumbai today @IndianExpress
— Sadaf Modak (@sadafmodak) December 1, 2018
The letter also alleged that Modi was receiving security threats from the families of the detainees in the PNB Fraud case, landlords, private persons, unpaid creditors and displeased customers. Agarwal also added, “The main reason the ED is seeking to declare Modi a fugitive is because he left India under suspicious circumstances on January 1, 2018. However, there was no criminal case [against him] when he had left the country.” He further stated that no material records exist which proves that Nirav Modi is refusing to return to India.
Response from ED
ED counsel Hiten Venegaonkar refuted all the allegations saying that these have nothing to do with the Act. He pointed out that Nirav Modi was the main accused in the PNB case, where he was charged with money laundering case. According to Business Today, the bank had issued a statement where it claimed to have detected a few fraudulent and unauthorised transactions in one of its branches in Mumbai.
Prominent names like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul choksi, Jatin Mehta and Lalit Modi are economic offenders of the country and are pursued by the Economic Directorate who have labelled them as fugitives.