India asks Hong Kong to arrest jeweller Nirav Modi in bank fraud

Activists of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party burn a cut-out with an image of billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi during a protest in Mumbai, India, on Feb 23, 2018.
Activists of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party burn a cut-out with an image of billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi during a protest in Mumbai, India, on Feb 23, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - India has asked authorities in Hong Kong to arrest jeweller Nirav Modi, one of the main suspects in a US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion) fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank , the government said, suggesting that it believes the fugitive is in the Chinese territory.

The whereabouts of Mr Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, the other person accused in India's biggest banking fraud at the country's second-largest state lender, have been unknown since federal police launched an investigation in February.

"The ministry has sought the provisional arrest of Nirav Deepak Modi by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, People's Republic of China," junior foreign minister V.K. Singh told parliament on Thursday (Apr 5).

The passports of Mr Modi and Mr Choksi, who both left India before the scandal emerged, have been revoked. Mr Singh said India had submitted the request for Mr Modi's arrest to Hong Kong on March 23.

Mr Modi, who owned a chain of boutiques from New York to Hong Kong, and Mr Choksi are accused of defrauding banks by raising loans from overseas branches of Indian lenders using nearly US$2 billion of fraudulent guarantees issued by rogue Punjab National Bank staff at a Mumbai branch.

Mr Modi and Mr Choksi have both denied wrongdoing.