- In a video, he is seen walking on a street in London's West End
- The 48-year-old continues to evade questions as he walks briskly
- The two minute clip has been shared by UK newspaper The Telegraph
Fugitive billionaire Nirav Modi, hunted by Indian investigators for over a year, was seen walking on a street in London's West End by a reporter of the British newspaper The Telegraph. In a two-minute clip shared by the newspaper, the billionaire, who is wanted in India in a Rs 13,000 crore bank fraud case, said "no comments" at least six times to questions ranging from how long he planned to stay in the UK to how much money he owed.
Stockier than before and not easy to recognise, Nirav Modi was in a pink shirt and an expensive jacket, sporting a handlebar moustache. The 48-year-old continued to evade questions as he walked briskly in an apparent effort to lose the reporter. He stopped near a cab, but moved on after speaking to the driver. The reporter followed him for some time till he finally got into another cab and left.
The British newspaper in its report said Nirav Modi has started a new diamond business in Soho, a part of the posh West End area in London.
When the reporter asked whether he had applied for political asylum, Nirav Modi said, "Sorry, no comment." Then he walked across the road in his black Ostrich hide jacket that normally costs upwards of 10,000 pounds (over Rs 9 lakh).
Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are the prime accused in the Punjab National Bank scam involving fake guarantees in the name of the state-run lender to secure loans overseas. Both left India in January last year before the CBI started investigating the PNB scam.
Mehul Choksi now holds the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda and has cited an illness and threat of mob lynching as reasons for not returning to India.
Nirav Modi's lawyer told courts that he was also afraid of being lynched. "I have been projected as evil and being made the poster boy of the bank fraud," his lawyer told a Mumbai court on his behalf in December last year. On Friday, a Rs 100 crore seaside bungalow in Maharashtra's Alibaug where the billionaire used to throw parties and host product shows was demolished with dynamite as the property was built illegally.
"Modi appears to have adopted a surprisingly nonchalant attitude to his fugitive status, walking his small dog each day between his apartment and the diamond company's office in a townhouse in Soho, just a few hundred yards from his Centre Point home," The Telegraph reported. The apartment is worth 8 million pounds (Rs 75 crore), the newspaper said.
The newspaper, quoting government sources, reported that Nirav Modi has been given a national insurance number - needed to legally work in the UK - and has been operating bank accounts online while being wanted by India. The report said it is not clear why was he given the national insurance number.
Government sources in India said attempts are on to bring him back. "Our message is clear. If you have committed fraud, you will be brought back to face justice. He is living like a refugee in London," a top government source told NDTV.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar today said the government already knew Nirav Modi was in the UK. "...That's why we sent an extradition request to the UK. Just because he was spotted on the street does not mean you can bring him back immediately. There's a due process. We are waiting for the UK government to respond," the spokesperson said.
On the video of Nirav Modi freely walking down a London street even as India tries to bring him home to face trial, the Congress tweeted, "Journalists of The Telegraph managed to track down Nirav Modi. Why was the Modi Govt unable to do so? Who is Modi trying to protect? Himself, Nirav Modi or the people who let him escape?"