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Diamond tycoon Nirav Modi arrested in UK over Indian bank scandal

Indian billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi was denied bail after appearing in a London court on Wednesday.

British police arrested the 48-year-old at the request of Indian authorities, who want to extradite him to face trial over a $1.8-billion (€1.59-billion) loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB).

Modi, one of the main suspects in the case, who is not a relative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fled India in early 2018 before the scandal came to light. He denies wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated.

His arrest came as Prakash Javadekar, a minister in the Indian government, said all fugitives would have to come back and “return the looted money to the nation.”

Read more: Indian police arrest three in $1.8 billion state-owned Punjab National Bank scam 

Naomi Watts with Nirav Modi and Deborra-Lee Furness

Naomi Watts and Deborra-Lee Furness flank Modi at the 2015 grand opening of his boutique in New York

India’s biggest bank fraud case

Indian authorities allege that companies owned by Modi defrauded PNB — India’s second largest public lender — by using forged documents to raise credit to buy and import jewels.

The son of a diamond merchant, Modi built an international empire and opened luxury jewelry stores in several major cities around the world. He also catered to a host of celebrity clients, including actresses Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas.

Read more: Indian tycoon Mallya ‘guilty of contempt’

In 2017, before the alleged fraud, Forbes put Modi’s estimated wealth at $1.73 billion.

Indian authorities have since seized and destroyed his seafront mansion near Mumbai, worth an estimated $14 million. They have also been given the all-clear from judges to auction 68 paintings and 11 vehicles owned by him, including models by Rolls Royce, Porsche, Mercedes.

Interpol issued a warrant last year seeking Modi’s arrest worldwide. British police took him into custody on Tuesday after discovering he had been staying in a luxury apartment in London’s Centre Point tower.

nm/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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