Absconding jeweller Nirav Modi, wanted in the Rs 13,600 crore PNB fraud case, is reported to be in the possession of at least six Indian passports and the investigative agencies are likely to file a fresh FIR against him for this offence, senior officials confirmed. It is a criminal offence to possess more than one valid passport and also to use a revoked passport.
Modi, who was earlier holed up in the UK, is now reported to have flown to Belgium, according to Indian intelligence agencies. His move to Belgium follows the pressure that India was building up on the Theresa May government to get him extradited.
According to officials, Nirav Modi has been actively using two of the six Indian passports, while the four other passports were found to be not active. Of the two active passports, one had Modi's full name while the other only had his first name with a 40-month UK visa stamped on it which could have enabled him to travel abroad, despite the government revoking his first known passport earlier this year, a senior official said.
The second passport was also subsequently revoked by the Indian authorities. However, according to sources, Nirav Modi also holds a Belgian passport which could also have been used for his hopping across countries as it is easier to get foreign visas with it.
The government, through the ministry of external affairs, has informed Interpol about the two revoked passports of Modi, but it appears that in the absence of a uniform international mechanism, the passports could not be legally scrapped in various countries and the fugitive diamantaire kept using them to travel.
The revocation order of the passports has been appended to the application of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate, seeking an Interpol arrest warrant against Modi. A fresh criminal FIR may be filed against Nirav Modi and he may face prosecution for the offence after the completion of an internal inquiry, a senior official said. He added that an inquiry was also being held to ascertain if Modi was using passports issued by other countries to travel.
Recently, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) again urged the Interpol to issue an arrest warrant against the fugitive diamantaire on the basis of their respective chargesheets against him and others, containing corruption and money-laundering charges.
Once the Interpol issued the notice and Nirav Modi's latest location was ascertained, the government would move for his extradition, sources said.
The ED will also approach a special court in Mumbai to seek an official declaration to categorise Modi as a fugitive on the basis of the charge sheet filed last month and for immediate confiscation of assets worth over Rs 8,000 crore, owned by him, his family and associated firms.
Modi, his uncle and jeweller Nirav Choksi and others are being probed by the agencies after the fraud came to light, following a complaint from the Punjab National Bank (PNB) that they allegedly cheated the bank to the tune of over Rs 13,000 crore with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.
The CBI and the ED have registered two FIRs each in connection with the case. Both Modi and Choksi fled the country just days before PNB informed the CBI about the fraud indicating that they could have been in touch with the bank's rogue staff about the ongoing developments.