Nirav Modi built his legal team in anticipation of the UK acting on India's requests. (File)
- UK legal team offered to visit India to help with steps on Nirav Modi
- British authorities got no response to queries, say sources
- Nirav Modi was recently spotted on the streets of London
When fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi was spotted on the streets of London last week looking somewhat different and wearing an extravagant ostrich-leather jacket, the government insisted there had been no delay on India's part in efforts to prosecute him and extradite him. NDTV has learnt that contrary to these claims, the British authorities have had no response to several queries they've sent for information. In fact, a legal team from the UK also offered to come to India to help facilitate action against Nirav Modi but allegedly got no response from India.
NDTV has learnt from the Serious Fraud Office in London that the first time that India sent an alert to the UK was under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) way back in February 2018. This was soon after the CBI first registered the criminal case against Nirav Modi and his family members for cheating the taxpayer of Rs 13,000 crores of money in the Punjab National Bank Scam.
While earlier, legal assistance for catching offenders abroad could be tedious and time-taking, the legal assistance treaty meant that the Home Ministry could directly forward summons or warrants to the Indian High Commission in London, which would then forward it to the central authority. In this case, the central authority in Britain decided that between the crown prosecution service and the SFO, it was the serious frauds office that was more appropriate to handle a request for taking action against Nirav Modi.
The Serious Frauds Office confirmed to India by March that Nirav Modi was in the UK. At that time, Indian officials were struggling to determine whether he was in Europe or Hong Kong; it was only months later that they confirmed he was in the UK. The frauds office also assigned a counsel to help India with its case -- lawyer Barry Stancombe, a junior barrister who specialises in fraud and money laundering.
NDTV has learnt that Stancombe and his team, while going through India's request, realized they needed many more documents. They wrote three letters that summer, to which they received no response. They also communicated, NDTV has learnt, that they were willing to make a visit to India to collect evidence so that they can arrest Nirav Modi, but that did not get a response.
Meanwhile, Nirav Modi built his legal team in anticipation of the UK acting on India's requests. Working on his request for asylum was the legal firm Mischcon, being handled by a lawyer called Kamal Rehman, and there was a second team led by Anand Doobey to work on his extradition case.
The Ministry of External affairs confirmed on Saturday that by August, two extradition requests were sent from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate. On the UK asking for more documents, the spokesperson denied it and said: "We are not aware of the request for any additional documents.''
Sources told NDTV that by December, the Serious Frauds office had stopped pursuing the case due to the "lack of interest'' on India's part. When contacted, a spokesperson for the frauds office said in an email: "We can neither confirm nor deny any SFO interest in the case.'' NDTV also contacted Barry Stancombe who too, refused to comment.
NDTV has sent emails and calls to the external affairs ministry and the CBI, but they haven't responded.