Nirav Modi seeks political asylum in Belgium
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.