"He has been accused of perpetrating the biggest fraud on the Indian banking system."
Since 2013, over 5,500 people from India have sought political asylum in Britain. Whilst not all of these people are Indian fraudsters, the UK seems to be their preferred place to take refuge.
The UK seems to have a past of allowing Indian fraudsters refuge. Well-known names that have sought refuge in the UK include Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi, Nadeem Saifi. Recently, Nirav Modi has applied here for political asylum.
Extraditing figures from the UK has not been easy for India. Efforts to extradite economic offenders has historically yielded little success.
We find out what makes the United Kingdom so appealing for Indian fraudsters, and review the cases from the biggest names that have fled India and settled in the UK.
Why do Indian Fraudsters choose the United Kingdom?
According to legal experts, it is thought that the UK is the preferred place for fugitives seeking asylum due to its fair legal system that prioritises human rights.
Times of India highlights four main areas that make the UK appealing to Indian fraudsters. This includes the UK’s emphasis on human rights, as well as the financial support that these criminals have.
Additional reasons include the unequal relationship that the UK has with India regarding extraditions and the asylum grants the UK gives that can be extended to years.
Human Rights – According to the European Convention of Human Rights, a UK court can deny an extradition request if it believes that person will be subject to torture, face the death penalty, or the extradition is based on political reasons.
Financial Support – Many Indians that have entered the UK from India have been wealthy. Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi and Nadeem Saifi were all well-supported financially.
Unequal Extraditions – In 1993, India and the UK signed a mutual extradition treaty. However, it seems that the UK has been stonewalling India’s extradition requests, despite India extraditing a UK national, Maninderpal Singh Kohli, in 2008 in the Hannah Foster murder case.
Extended Asylum – If Modi is granted his request to stay in the UK, he can live there for five years. After this point, he can request to extend the period.
All of these aspects of the UK, make it an ideal place for Indian fugitives to seek refuge.
Billionaire Jeweller Nirav Modi
Nirav Modi is an Indian businessman, well-known for establishing a global diamond jewellery house in 2010. He has been accused of perpetrating the biggest fraud on the Indian banking system, reportedly up to $2 billion worth of fraud.
The Indian jeweller fled the country after allegations of fraud arose in February. His stores have since closed and all of his assets, including luxury cars, have been seized after a police warrant for his arrest was issued.
On 10th June 2018, the Financial Times reported that Modi had applied for political asylum in the United Kingdom.
Times of India has since reported that his request for asylum would be denied as he does not qualify. However, Modi could receive the privilege of indefinite leave to remain (ILR) which would allow him to stay in the UK.
Times of India sources have revealed that India has asked the UK whether Modi has been granted ILR. So far, the UK has not responded. If Modi is granted an ILR, India would have to file an extradition request under the bilateral treaty.
Former Politician Vijay Mallya
Former politician Mallya has worn many hats. Currently, he is the chairman of United Breweries Group. However, he also has interests in beverage alcohol, aviation infrastructure, real estate and fertiliser.
After the collapse of his airline, Kingfisher Airlines, in 2012, Mallya accumulated £900 million in debts. His drastic fall from a liqueur tycoon into a wanted man has left him grounded in the UK.
In an interview with Financial Times, Mallya said:
“The media made me into the king of good times, and now I’m the king of bad times.”
The relationship between the UK and India regarding Mallya’s extradition seems to be strengthening. According to the New Indian Express, British Prime Minister spoke to her Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a court hearing for Mallya’s extradition.
“The issue is progressing through the appropriate legal channels and I spoke to the Minister of State (Rijiju) and gave him reassurances on that.”
Former IPL Administrator Lalit Modi
Lalit Modi is another Indian businessman. Modi is best known for his three-year career as the first Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) up until 2010.
Modi ran into trouble when he was suspended from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI – which he served as Vice President) after he was accused of misconduct, indiscipline and financial irregularities.
The BCCI found him guilty of these charges and banned Modi for life in 2013. Whilst Modi denied any wrongdoings, once the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launched an investigation against him regarding the financial irregularities, Modi moved to the UK.
Currently, Lalit Modi is the President and Managing Director of Modi Enterprises, as well as the Executive Director of Godfrey Phillips India.
Music Director Nadeem Saifi
Saifi was an Indian musician and one of Bollywood’s most successful music directors. Since 2000, Saifi has been living in exile after he was accused of murdering his record label manager, Gulshan Kumar.
In 1997, Saifi was on holiday in the UK when Kumar was shot dead in Mumbai by assailants. Saifi has been a prime suspect in the murder ever since.
In 2002, a judge ruled that the case set against him had not been proved. However, the warrant for his arrest has not been withdrawn. A UK High Court judgement stated:
“The accusation of murder and conspiracy made against this applicant is not made in good faith and in the interests of justice.”
Speaking to BBC Asian Network, Saifi said:
“I don’t want to die without getting justice.”
“I don’t want my parents to die without hearing that I was innocent.
“My parents are lying ill in their beds, I so much want to see them. I deserve this justice, it’s high time now.”
Whilst the guiltiness of some of these men is still unknown, the UK undoubtedly provides them with an easy safe haven to avoid trial in India.
However, it seems that not all is lost. Indian authorities can still attempt to bring these men to justice through another channel.
According to Money Control, the two businessmen, Nivra Modi and Vijay Mallya, could be returned to India through the signing of an illegal immigration agreement.
Pressure mounts on the UK to extradite these men. We may see more Indian fraudsters returned to India in the not so distant future.