A video of fugitive billionaire Nirav Modi, wanted in India in a Rs 13,000 crore alleged bank scam, freely walking down a street in London has given fresh ammo to the opposition to target the government weeks before the national elections. The government has been working to bring Mr Modi and his uncle Mehul Chokshi, another accused in the scam who now holds the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda, to India to be put on trial for allegedly using fake guarantees of Punjab National Bank to secure loans overseas.
"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?" the Congress tweeted on its official handle.
Businessmen flying out of the country after not repaying creditors and defrauding lenders have been a big concern for the government that it even framed a new law - Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 - to punish them. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who left India in March 2016 after defaulting on multi-crore loans, was named a "fugitive economic offender" in January.
Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi left the country in January last year before the CBI started investigating the PNB scam.
In the video shared by The Telegraph, Mr Modi was seen in a pink shirt and a jacket made from Ostrich hide, which normally costs upwards of 10,000 pounds (over Rs 9 lakh). The visible extravagance amid the storm over the alleged multi-crore fraud involving a public sector bank drew severe criticism on social media.
That ostrich hide jacket is simply hideous.- Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) March 9, 2019
"Nirav Modi is wearing a jacket which is worth 10,000 pounds and living in an expensive home. We want to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi, what happened to the promises of bringing back black money?" Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said.
The BJP hit back at the opposition, saying Nirav Modi started cheating the public sector bank in 2011 when the UPA was in power.
Many of these who cheated India during the UPA govt have been brought back and are in custody. Others will follow. They are living the life of fugitives and refugees.- BJP (@BJP4India) March 9, 2019
None who cheats India can get away under the Modi government.
The government today said it was aware that the fugitive billionaire 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," foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters today.