Indian diamond tycoon accused of $2 billion fraud arrested in London, police say – National Post

Indian diamond tycoon accused of $2 billion fraud arrested in London, police say - National Post
Billionaire celebrity jeweller arrested in U.K.
LONDON — Diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, whose jewels once adorned stars from Bollywood to Hollywood, was ordered held without bail in London on Wednesday, more than a year after Indian authorities alleged he was involved in a $1.8 billion bank fraud.

A judge remanded Modi into custody at the end of a Westminster Magistrates Court hearing. District Judge Marie Mallon said there was a risk Modi wouldnt appear for future hearings because of his access to large sums of money that could help him evade the courts and his "keenness to do so."

Remanding Modi in custody District Judge Marie Mallon said: Taking into account the extensive value of the amounts of these allegations, and the fact you access your means and the scope in this case, I find that there is a susbtansial risk that if you were released you would abscond.

Indian authorities have sought Modis arrest since February 2018, when they alleged companies he controlled defrauded the state-owned Punjab National Bank by using fake financial documents to get loans to buy and import jewels.

Earlier this month The Daily Telegraph dramatically revealed that wanted Modi was living in a flat in central Londons Centre Point tower, having tracked him to a three-bedroom flat in the tower block, where rent is estimated to cost £17,000 a month. 

Fugitive Indian jewellery tycoon, 48, is arrested in London over £1.5bn bank fraud

Police in India later raided the homes and offices of Modi and business partner Mehul Choksi, seizing nearly $800 million in jewels and gold. The men are thought to have left India before the alleged fraud was discovered.

George Hepburn-Scott, defending, said Modi had arrived in the UK in June 2018, before any allegation was made in India, that his son had spend five years in an English school, and that MAdoi had lived here lawfully and paid tax. 

In a letter to Punjab National Bank last year, Modi said he owed the institution about 50 billion rupees ($775 million). The $1.8 billion figure cited by the bank resulted in a media frenzy that pressured authorities to quickly search and seize assets from two of his companies, Firestar International and Firestar Diamond International, Modi said.

Nirav Modi, 48, is involved in a new diamond business in the capital – despite Indian police issuing an Interpol red notice for his arrest. He was arrested over an alleged billion-pound fraud last night

The son of a diamond merchant, Modi built an international jewelry empire that stretched from India to New York and Hong Kong. Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra became the face of his eponymous brand and Hollywood actress Naomi Watts appeared with Modi at the opening of his first U.S. boutique in 2015.

As recently as 2017, Forbes magazine estimated Modis wealth at $1.8 billion. But his empire began to crumble after the fraud allegations, and he was removed from the publications billionaires list in 2018.

Nirav Deepak Modi, 48, was held by Met Police officers in Holborn overnight and today at Westminster Magistrates Court he contested an extradition request from India but bail was denied.

Last year, the international police organization Interpol issued a "red notice" seeking Modis arrest worldwide. His arrest finally came after Britains Daily Telegraph earlier this month said it had tracked him down to a luxury apartment in Londons Centre Point tower, a 34-story building that promotes itself as a "landmark with unparalleled views."

A judge ordered Modi to be held at the end of a hearing at Westminster magistrates court on Wednesday. District Justice Marie Mallon said there was a risk the billionaire merchant would fail to appear for future hearings because of his access to large sums of money that could help him evade the courts, and his keenness to do so.

Read more There are substantial grounds to believe that you would fail to surrender before the court if bail were to be granted, the judge said.

Modi, 48, is fighting extradition to India. His lawyer, George Hepburne Scott, had argued Modi had been living openly in London since June 2018. He was arrested on Tuesday in central London.

He strongly contests all the allegations and is prepared with comprehensive arguments to support his case, Hepburne Scott said. His legal team has had months of contact with the extradition squad and expressed his willingness to cooperate.

A source told the Telegraph then that he had been given a National Insurance number, meaning he can legally work here, and has used British bank accounts.

Modi was employed in London on a monthly salary of £20,000 and regularly paid his council tax, his lawyers added.

An Indian billionaire jeweller wanted over an alleged £1.5 billion fraud has been remanded in custody as a flight risk, following his arrest in London.

He was arrested on Tuesday when trying to open a new bank account at a branch in London and a clerk alerted Scotland Yard, the court heard. Modi had originally agreed to surrender to UK authorities by Monday.

The billionaires jewels are worn by top Hollywood stars including Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts, but he is accused of being behind a £1.5bn fraud.

Indian authorities have been seeking Modis arrest since February 2018, when they alleged companies he controlled defrauded the state-owned Punjab National Bank by using fake financial documents to get loans to buy and import jewels.

The jeweller is accused of taking part in the fraud on Punjab National Bank, believed to be one of the largest ever fraud cases in India.

Read more British and Indian journalists have filmed the mogul in London in recent weeks, increasing the pressure on both countries to deal with his case.

Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for Indias foreign ministry, said he welcomed the news of Modis arrest. [The] government of India continues to actively follow up this matter with the authorities concerned in the UK, with a view to have Nirav Modi extradited to India at the earliest, Kumar said.

He added: He has lived openly, pays council tax and has a National Insurance Number. He is the opposite of a flight risk. 

Modis arrest is likely to boost the prospects of his namesake, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi (no relation), who is running for re-election in part on a platform of eradicating corruption.

Another Indian mogul accused of defrauding banks, Vijay Mallya, is awaiting extradition from the UK. The liquor and airline barons case is pending with the Home Office. Mallya denies any wrongdoing.