Absconding billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi is understood to have jumped on a plane and fled to Brussels on Tuesday or Wednesday, immediately after front-page reports in the media that he was in London seeking political asylum and that the Indian high commission was awaiting formal confirmation of his presence from the British government.
The diamond merchant, wanted in India’s biggest-ever banking scam, is said to be travelling in and out of the UK freely, possibly on a Singapore passport, not an Indian one.
On Monday, the CBI had requested Interpol for a red corner notice against Nirav Modi and his brother Nishal, a Belgian national. On Tuesday, a special court in Mumbai had issued a non-bailable warrant against the diamantaire and his family members.
“He travelled to Brussels on Tuesday or Wednesday, straight after the story revealing he was in Mayfair,” a source close to the Indian government said.
“The Indian government has been informed by Interpol that there has been no movement detected on his Indian passport since March 31 so he is definitely not using his Indian passport. If he is on a Singapore passport, the Indian government can’t do anything as the non-bailable warrant is against his Indian passport. They would need to put pressure on the Singapore government. This leads to an issue between the Indian government and Interpol,” the source said.
Sources at the Indian high commission in London told TOI they did not know whether Nirav Modi was using an Indian passport. “Money can buy anything,” they said when asked how he might have a Singapore passport.
“We cannot tell which passport he is using. Only UK immigration, which allowed him to enter the UK, knows which passport he is using. We know that he is coming in and out of the UK. If someone enters India, then we know which passport they entered on, so only the UK home office knows the answers,” Indian high commission sources said, adding, “We have not heard he is using a Singapore passport but rather an Indian passport. He may have a fake Indian passport, which is easy enough to get, or else he may be using his revoked Indian passport and countries may just allow him through as they may not have the information.”
But the sources said that whatever passport Nirav Modi was on, the Indian government could still obtain an Interpol red corner notice against him.
The UK home office did not respond to a list of queries from TOI asking which passport Nirav Modi was travelling on and why they had not yet responded to the Indian high commission’s formal request for confirmation of his presence in the UK.