Fugitives at Large
India has registered a major victory in the UK Westminster Court in the two billion dollar fraud case against Diamond tycoon Nirav Modi. The UK court satisfied with the evidence that India has produced, ordered that Modi be extradited to India and face trial under India’s stringent economic laws. Nirav Modi is wanted in the Punjab National Bank fraud case which was unearthed in January, 2018. But a little before the fraud came to light, the businessman managed to flee from the country. Later he was arrested in the United Kingdom in 2019. Since then, he has been languishing in a UK jail as his bail application was rejected seven times by the court. Each time the court denied him bail in the apprehension that Nirav Modi may go underground once again as he has power and resources at his backing. In this instance, handling of the case by both the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), should be lauded. The investigative agencies successfully countered all arguments that Nirav Modi’s team placed before the judge to prevent his deportation.
However, even after this order by the UK court, it is still uncertain when Nirav Modi will finally be extradited. The option of appealing before a higher court is an option still available to him. Insiders believe that Nirav Modi will opt for that option. If the fugitive fails to get relief in the higher court, he can seek asylum as per British law. So, the chances of getting Nirav Modi back soon are slim. A similar situation occurred with liquor baron Vijay Mallya too. The Kingfisher Airline owner is still living in the UK even after exhausting all legal options. He fought a three year long legal battle in the lower court to prevent deportation. After losing in the lower court, he moved to the higher court. The legal battle at the higher court lasted for a year and Mallya lost that battle too. Yet, still he still manages to evade extradition as he has applied for asylum and if the asylum is granted, the fugitive can never be brought back to India.
Extradition of fugitives is a lengthy legal process and this is why most countries have not achieved much success in bringing back offenders. At times, the fraudster-politician nexus also impedes the process of justice and this is why India’s record of bringing back offenders is very poor. Out of 72 absconding offenders, India has managed to ensure the extradition of only two in the last six years. A two-pronged strategy should be adopted to deal with fugitives, one condition should be that every country should be vigilant enough to prevent fraudsters from fleeing the country. Secondly, there is a need to make the extradition law far simpler than what it is at present. In this regard, countries need to sit together to frame an extradition law which will be in force globally. At the same time, fraudsters should not be granted asylum. Otherwise, the present cumbersome process will only embolden fugitives.