Nirav Modi has been declared a fugitive economic offender by a Mumbai court after a plea by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Mr Modi is currently in Wandsworth Prison in London, from where he is fighting extradition on charges related to the nearly $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) money-laundering and fraud case. He is the second person, after Vijay Mallya, to be charged under an anti-fraud law that was passed last year.
Nirav Modi, 48, and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, 60, are the prime accused in a scam involving fake guarantees in the name of a state-run lender to secure overseas loans. Both fled India in January last year, before the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) began investigations.
Both Mr Modi and Mr Choksi have denied the charges. Nirav Modi's defence team, led by barrister Hugo Keith, has claimed the Indian government has wrongly "blackened" Nirav Modi's name as a "world-class schemer".
Nirav Modi was arrested in March by Scotland Yard officers carrying an extradition warrant. He has fought his transfer to India since, arguing that he had arrived in the UK before he was accused of any crime in India. He has declared that he is a lawful resident of Britain, where he holds a job and pays taxes on a salary of 20,000 pounds per month.
Last month he had moved a bail application in a London court offering "unprecedented" house arrest guarantees, similar to those imposed on suspected terrorists. The plea was turned down over fears of witness intimidation and failure to surrender before the start of his extradition trial scheduled to start next year.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018, designed to catch people who flee abroad after committing financial crimes, was signed into law by the President in August last year. It is aimed at stopping a growing number of high-profile economic offenders fleeing the country to avoid legal action.
According to the new law, a fugitive economic offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for his or her involvement in economic offences involving at least Rs 100 crore or more and has left India to avoid prosecution.