LONDON: Indian billionaire Nirav Modi, who is at the centre of a money laundering case linked to over USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud, has fled to the UK where the absconding diamantaire sought asylum claiming "political persecution" back home, according to a media report today.
Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly cheating the PNB, the country's second largest lender, to the tune of more than USD 2 billion.
The duo and others are also being probed by other central agencies after the fraud came to light this year following a complaint by the PNB that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of over Rs 13,000 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.
Both Nirav Modi and Choski are said to have left the country before criminal cases were lodged against them.
"Officials in India and the UK say he (Nirav Modi) is in London, where his company has one store, and is trying to claim asylum from what he said was political persecution," The Financial Times reported.
"There are always a number of complicated cases that add a little tension and spice to our relationship with India. But there is also an appreciation from both sides that we have a legal process that has to be gone through and that we are of course governed by human rights legislation," a senior UK Foreign Office official was quoted as saying by the report.
The CBI had in May filed two charge sheets in the case before a Mumbai court. The ED has also filed its charge sheet in the case involving Nirav Modi, who is in his late 40s, and his associates, officials in New Delhi said.
They said the about 12,000 page charge sheet or the prosecution complaint has been filed before a special court here under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
India is also pushing for the extradition of liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, who is on trial for the UK court to rule if he can be extradited to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crores.