London, June 24: Absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi stayed in a flat just above his jewellery store in the post Mayfair area of London, while the Indian authorities were hunting for him in connection with the Rs 12,636-crore PNB fraud case, said a media report today. Also Read - Nirav Modi's Extradition Approved by UK Home Minister Ahead of Boris Johnson's India Visit
Modi had travelled in and out of Britain at least four times since his passport was cancelled by the Indian authorities in February. Probe agencies, earlier, found that he possessed as many as six Indian passports. Also Read - Mehul Choksi Still A Citizen of Antigua, Unlikely To Return Before 2027
According to a Sunday Times report, Modi, during his stay in London, was living in the heart of the city above his jewellery boutique called “Nirav Modi” on Old Bond Street, which was reportedly closed last week. Also Read - Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail Awaits Nirav Modi, Keeps Special Cell Barrack Number 12 Ready
“Why are they always ending up in London? It’s as if the UK is a safe haven,” the newspaper quoted an Indian official as saying.
That Modi has been using Britain as a “safe haven” threatens to damage diplomatic ties between India and the UK and further scupper prospects of a post-Brexit trade deal, the report warned.
On February 23, the Indian authorities revoked Modi’s passport, contacting Interpol and the UK government soon after. But official records reveal Modi travelled from Heathrow Airport to Hong Kong on March 15, and from New York to Heathrow Airport on March 28.
Three days later, he flew from London to Paris. On June 12, Modi is thought to have boarded the Eurostar train from London to Brussels, the newspaper claims, adding that unconfirmed reports claim Modi has applied for asylum in the UK.
The UK Home Office and Border Force declined to discuss individual cases but said in a statement: “All passengers attempting to enter the UK are subject to checks by Border Force officers to identify people of concern.” “Border Force works with international partners to ensure the most up-to-date information is available.” In the UK, Nirav Modi’s jewels have been made famous by British actress Kate Winslet sporting the diamonds at the Oscars in 2016. Also, his advertising campaigns have been fronted by the British model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
DRI Serves Arrest Warrant to Nirav Modi Via Email
Meanwhile, Modi was served arrest warrant by the revenue intelligence agency DRI in connection with a case of alleged customs duty evasion, PTI quoted officials as saying on Sunday.
They added that the warrant was issued by a court in Surat, Gujarat, after Modi failed to appear before it connection with the case.
The DRI had in March launched prosecution against Nirav Modi and three of his firms Firestar International Pvt Ltd (FIPL), Firestar Diamond International Pvt Ltd (FDIPL) and Radashir Jewellery Co Pvt Ltd (RJCPL), based in the Special Economic Zone, Surat, for allegedly diverting duty-free imported goods for purposes other than specified in the rules, they said.
According to the norms, duty-free import of goods by the units located in the SEZ is permitted only if they are to be used as raw material and are exported after value addition or processing.
It was found that high-value diamonds and pearls worth Rs 890 crore, involving customs duty of Rs 52 crore, were allegedly diverted by the SEZ units controlled by Nirav Modi and sold in the open market, the officials said.
To evade import duty, he exported low-quality diamonds and pearls and claimed that these were the ones imported and then processed, they said.
The DRI, which is probing the case, has claimed that it has collected vital details, documents and evidence.
(With PTI inputs)