Ni­rav Modi seeks po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in Bel­gium

The Sunday Guardian - - Front Page - REUTERS | FRAN­CIS MASCARENHAS ABHINANDAN MISHRA NEW DELHI

Fugi­tive busi­ness­man Ni­rav Modi, the prime ac­cused in the Rs 15,000-crore Pun­jab Na­tional Bank scam, has sought po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in Bel­gium, of­fi­cial sources in the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion told The Sun­day Guardian. Po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in a coun­try is sought by those who leave their coun­try to avoid “po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion”. Ac­cord­ing to these sources, the Bel­gian gov­ern­ment got in touch with In­dian agen­cies last month, in­ti­mat­ing them about Ni­rav Modi’s re­quest.

The sources added that Brus­sels was well aware of the le­gal cases that Ni­rav Modi was fac­ing in In­dia, apart from the red corner no­tice that had been is­sued against him by the In­ter­pol. How­ever, de­spite hav­ing knowl­edge of these facts, it ap­peared that Brus­sels was likely to give him asy­lum, they added.

Ni­rav Modi, who has been de­scribed in the past by the Bel­gian me­dia as an “An­twer­per” and “An­twerp boy” as he grew up in the Bel­gian city of An­twerp, has been re­ceiv­ing a “sym­pa­thetic” re­sponse from the coun­try ever since news about the scam broke ear­lier this year.

When con­tacted, the Em­bassy of Bel­gium in In­dia told The Sun­day Guardian that the “Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs in Bel­gium has no in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the where­abouts of Mr Ni­rav Modi”.

A spokesper­son for the Min­istry of In­te­rior of Bel­gium, on the other hand, stated that the min­istry could not re­spond to the ques­tion be­cause of “ob­vi­ous rea­sons of con­fi­den­tial­ity and re­spect for per­sonal data”.

How­ever, sources in the Bel­gian es­tab­lish­ment have con­firmed that their gov­ern­ment is “very likely” to give asy­lum to Ni­rav Modi.

Ni­rav Modi’s brother Nee­shal, an­other ac­cused in the case, is a Bel­gian ci­ti­zen and, as per of­fi­cial sources, is also sus­pected to be holed up in Bel­gium. He ap­par­ently lives there freely de­spite a red corner no­tice is­sued against him too in the case.

Their un­cle Me­hul Choksi, who too is a prime ac­cused in the PNB scam, took the cit­i­zen­ship of An­tigua and Bar­buda a while ago and, de­spite the In­dian gov­ern­ment push­ing for his ex­tra­di­tion, he con­tin­ues to en­joy a free life in the tiny is­land coun­try.

Although In­dia has an ex­tra­di­tion treaty with Bel­gium, signed in 1901 be­tween Great Bri­tain and Bel­gium, the treaty guar­an­tees that the two coun­tries will only take each other’s re­quests se­ri­ously and put the ac­cused through a le­gal trial if the charges are es­tab­lished.

The de­por­ta­tion of Ni­rav Modi, if it has to hap­pen, will take place only when the charges are proved in a court in Bel­gium, which will ob­vi­ously take a long time.

The In­ter­pol is­sued a red corner no­tice against Ni­rav Modi’s sis­ter Purvi, a Bel­gian na­tional, on the re­quest of the En­force­ment Direc­torate in Septem­ber this year.

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