In a major development, absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi was on Thursday declared a “fugitive economic offender” under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act by a special PMLA court in Mumbai in the Punjab National Bank scam case.

With this, Nirav Modi becomes only the second accused so far under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA) to have been declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’ after Vijay Mallya.

Liquor baron and former chief of Kingfisher Airlines, Mallya, was declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’ by a Mumbai special court in January this year.

The significant order came a day after his uncle and co-accused in the PNB scam – Mehul Choksi – suffered a huge setback when the Bombay High Court rejected his plea to stay the special PMLA court proceedings where the ED is seeking to declare him as a ‘fugitive economic offender’.

The huge setback to Nirav Modi came a day after special PMLA judge VC Barde said that “the proclamation envisaged by Sec. 82 of the CrPC shall be issued as the accused absconded and concealing themselves to avoid execution of warrant..”

49-year-old Nirav Modi is fighting extradition to India on charges of nearly USD 2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud and money laundering case.

UK’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court, had in November, for the fifth straight time rejected his bail plea despite an offer of an “unprecedented bail package”, which included 4-million pounds in security as well as house arrest akin to those imposed on terrorist suspects.

Nirav Modi has been lodged at Wandsworth prison in south-west London, one of England’s most overcrowded jails, since his arrest on March 19 on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government, being represented by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in court.

His extradition trial is scheduled between May 11 and 15, 2020, and he must be produced via video link before a court every 28 days until the case management hearings in the case kick in from early next year.

Meanwhile, earlier in September, the Interpol had issued a red corner notice against the brother of Nirav Modi, for his alleged role in helping him. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) requested the Interpol to locate and arrest Nehal Modi who is a Belgian national.

Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are under probe by both the CBI and the ED, which has till date attached properties worth Rs 4,765 crore of Choksi and Nirav Modi.

(With agency inputs)