A Mumbai court refused to classify Nirav Modi as a fugitive economic offender saying that it does not have enough power to do so. The Mumbai sessions court has postponed the case until it is vested with appropriate powers.
In his order earlier this week, special judge UM Mudholkar stated that courts dealing with matters like this must be a designated court for the Central Bureau of Investigation/Anti-Corruption Branch, and have powers under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. This court is bestowed only with powers under the PMLA, he added.
Justice Mudholkar further stated that the notification the Mumbai sessions court as a designated court for the CBI/ACB has not been received and is awaited. So, as matters stand, the court cannot effectively deal with cases of declaring fugitive economic offenders.
Last month, Modi, through his advocate Vijay Aggarwal, had challenged fugitive proceedings against him in the Mumbai sessions court, citing the powers of the court. Aggarwal had argued that that the court is not designated under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, even though it is a designated court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The Enforcement Directorate has been vying for a fugitive status of Modi as it will allow the agency attach his foreign assets.
Earlier this month, the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) had directed Modi and his aides to pay more than Rs 7,200 crore with interest to the defrauded Punjab National Bank in two separate orders. Moreover, Modi has been faced with a global crackdown over the past few weeks. On June 27, Swiss authorities had seized four accounts worth Rs 283.16 crore, in the name of Modi and his sister Purvi, on the request of the Enforcement Directorate. A few days later, on July 2, the Singapore High Court ordered freezing four bank accounts in the name of Modi, Purvi and her husband Mayank Mehta. These accounts have Rs 44 crore between them. Interpol has issued Red Corner Notice against both Purvi and Mayank.
Modi was arrested by uniformed Scotland Yard officers in central London on March 19. He faces extradition to India as the "principal beneficiary" of the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs) as part of a conspiracy to defraud PNB and then laundering the proceeds of crime. The diamantaire has been behind bars at England's Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) Wandsworth. He will remain under custody till July 25 and will be presented before the court on July 29 for the next case management hearing in the extradition proceedings against him.
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