By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi – Nirav Modi, the prime accused in a Rs 13,500 crore fraud at the Punjab National Bank (PNB), travelled multiple times to Britain, US, China, Cuba and France on a revoked Indian passport with additional booklets, despite his details shared on the "central database of Interpol internationally", according to inputs given by Britain to Indian agencies.
Informed sources said that Nirav Modi travelled five times between these countries on his revoked passport No Z1781888, which has additional six booklets carrying different series, between February 10 and March 31.
The Indian agencies said a June 5 letter, shared by Britain, revealed that the fugitive businessman travelled from US' John F. Kennedy International Airport to Britain's Heathrow Airport on February 10, from Frank Pais Airport in Cuba to Heathrow on February 15, from Heathrow to Hong Kong International Airport on March 15, from there back to Heathrow on March 28 and from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle Airport in France on March 31.
"Information about Nirav Modi was updated on central database of Interpol internationally on February 15 when we issued a diffusion notice against him and shared it with 192 Interpol member countries. His passport details was also updated just after it was revoked by MEA (Ministry of External Affairs)," Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said.
A diffusion notice is issued directly by an international entity to the countries of their choice to take their help in identifying location, physical description, photograph and fingerprints of an accused wanted in offence with which he or she is charged. The notice is issued through the Interpol, an international police organization, to facilitate international police cooperation.
Interpol offices in Britain, US, France, United Arab Emirates, Belgium and Singapore were informed about revocation of Nirav Modi's passport but these Interpol member countries didn't inform India about his movements, said sources, adding they were shared the information about the fugitive more than four times since the diffusion notice was issued.
Only Britain responded to India's diffusion notice issued to it on April 25, May 22, May 24 and May 28, but the response came in June, said the sources.
"UK Interpol should have informed India Interpol (CBI) when Nirav Modi travelled from London to Belgium," said the CBI source, adding they still did not know the exact locations of the diamond merchant but the details of his further movements are supposed to be shared with them soon.
Sources said "the details received from Britain authorities in response to the diffusion notice have been shared with other sister agencies in foreign countries". Further investigation and action in this regard is in progress, they said.
But the sources did not throw any light on whether the British communication talked about the presence of the fugitive in that country.
The CBI on June 11 also approached Interpol to issue Red Corner Notices (RCN) against Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, promoter of Gitanjali Group, also wanted in the PNB fraud. The RCNs were issued to help track Nirav Modi and Choksi and return them to India through official channels to face trial in the bank scam case in which the CBI recently filed two chargesheets.
Letters Rogatory (LRs) in the cases lodged against Nirav Modi by the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI and the Income Tax Department were sent to the UK Central Authority (UKCA) on March 19, April 14 and April 15 respectively.
Nirav Modi, his wife, his brother and Choksi fled the country before the PNB complained against their companies, saying it had been cheated through fraudulent issue of Letters of Undertakings and Foreign Letters of Credit.
In its chargesheets filed last month, the CBI alleged that Nirav Modi, through his companies, siphoned off funds to the tune of Rs 6,498.20 crore using fraudulent LoUs issued from PNB's Brady House branch in Mumbai. Choksi swindled Rs 7,080.86 crore, making it possibly the biggest banking scam in the country, it alleged.
An additional loan default of over Rs 5,000 crore by Choksi's companies is also being probed by the CBI.