Nirav Modi is a celebrity jeweler and an internationally-known billionaire. Today, he is also the “leading suspect” in a $1.8 billion bank fraud case reported by one of India’s largest banking institutions. Authorities have raided several properties owned by Modi and seized more than $200 million in assets.
Speaking to the press, Indian Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Nirav Modi and his accomplices attempted to bypass established banking channels by perpetrating this fraud… There will be a detailed investigation, and no one will be spared…”
The statement came after Punjab National Bank announced fraudulent activity in at least one of its branches located in Mumbai. Spokesmen for Modi are not commenting to the press, and Modi has yet to be arrested, though India has suspended Modi’s passport. Modi has been allowed one week to argue against the suspension of his passport. Otherwise it will be fully revoked. Perhaps seeing this coming, Modi reportedly left India last month and is now residing in New York City.
Modi is a third-generation jeweler who followed his father and grandfather into the diamond business. He grew up in Belgium and appears to have retail establishments located in Los Vegas, Hong Kong, NYC, Mumbai, and Beijing. His designs are popular with several Hollywood stars, as well as well-known actresses Priyanka Chopra and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who are contracted as brand ambassadors for his lines.
In this case, Punjab National Bank asserts that certain bank employees assisted in completing “unauthorized and fraudulent transactions” for certain customers. Modi was not mentioned by name, but media reports named him later.
The bank had previously named Modi and several others in a complaint accusing the people of “cheating” the bank, though no specifics were given other than it was about equal to $44 million.
Modi continues to keep a relatively low profile, not speaking to the press and not bothering, at least not yet bothering, to deny these allegations in any way. At this point, the lack of commentary from the accused has media comparing this incident to another high-profile Indian banking scandal, that of Vijay Mallya, who fled India two years ago while owing more than a billion dollars to multiple Indian banks. Mallya faced an extradition demand from India that he is currently fighting from Britain.
At this point, the loose comparison is all the media can make. As more information comes out, Modi may find himself in a position where speaking out is advisable. At this point, with very little to report and nothing public yet tying him to any crime, silence seems an effective choice.