The external affairs ministry on Friday suspended with immediate effect the passports of diamantaire Nirav Modi and his business partner Mehul Choksi, two of the prime accused in the Rs 11,300-crore PNB fraud case, for four weeks.
The ministry, which said it did not know where Nirav Modi was, gave them one week to respond why their passports should not be revoked.
“If they fail to respond within the stipulated time it will be assumed that they have no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
Announcing the suspension, the statement said, “On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the passport issuing authority in the MEA has today suspended the validity of passports of Nirav Deepak Modi and Mehul Chinubhai Choksi with immediate effect for a period of four weeks u/s 10(A) of the Passports Act 1967.”
They have been asked to respond within one week why their passports should not be impounded or revoked under Section 10 (3) of the Passports Act 1967, it said.
“This gentleman is not in touch with any of our officers and we are not aware of his location,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said when asked if Nirav Modi was in touch with the ministry and if the government knew his whereabouts.
Asserting that Nirav Modi was not part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official delegation to Davos and there was “no meeting” between him and the prime minister, Kumar said the group photo of the prime minister with a group of CEOs was just an “impromptu” event.
Kumar also asserted that after the suspension of the passports, which are entry documents, the duo cannot travel to any country. He also said the ministry would take further action as advised by the investigation agencies concerned.
Modi and Choksi, who are believed to have fled the country, were also summoned by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and asked to appear before the agency within a week’s time, according to officials.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED yesterday moved separate applications to the MEA seeking the revocation of Nirav Modi’s passport as well as that of his maternal uncle and his business partner Mehul Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali jewellery chain.