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|20 March, 2019

Jeweller Modi arrested in London on India's request

Nirav Modi is one of the main suspects charged in the $2bln loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank

Security guards stand inside a Nirav Modi showroom during a raid by the Enforcement Directorate, a government agency that fights financial crime, in New Delhi, India, February 15, 2018.

Security guards stand inside a Nirav Modi showroom during a raid by the Enforcement Directorate, a government agency that fights financial crime, in New Delhi, India, February 15, 2018.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

LONDON/NEW DELHI - Fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi had been arrested in London on behalf of the Indian authorities, British police said on Wednesday, prompting an Indian minister to declare that "all looters will be brought back".

The arrest of Modi, one of the main suspects charged in the $2 billion loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB), follows a request by India in August for Britain to extradite the diamond magnate.

Police said Modi, 48, was arrested in the Holborn area of central London on Tuesday and was due to appear at London's Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

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Modi left the country before India's biggest banking fraud came to light early last year.

Prior to his arrest, India's main opposition Congress party had used it as a weapon to target the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of an April-May general election.

PNB, India’s second-largest state-run bank, in 2018 said that two jewelry groups headed by Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi had defrauded it by raising credit from other Indian banks using fraudulent guarantees issued by rogue staff of the bank.

Modi and Choksi have both denied wrongdoing. Modi's India-based lawyer could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

PNB shares closed up 3 percent on the news of Modi's arrest.

In December, a British court agreed that another high-profile Indian businessman, aviation tycoon Vijay Mallya, could be extradited to his homeland to face fraud charges. Mallya is currently appealing the decision.

Prakash Javadekar, a minister in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, said all the fugitives would have to come back and "return the looted money to the nation".

Separately, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), India's main financial crime fighting agency, said that a court on Wednesday issued a non-bailable warrant against Nirav Modi's wife.

The court also allowed the ED to auction 11 vehicles belonging to Modi - including Rolls Royce, Porsche, Mercedes and Toyota - and income tax authorities to auction 68 paintings owned by him.

(Reporting by Michael Holden and Krishna N. Das Editing by Guy Faulconbridge & Simon Cameron-Moore) ((michael.holden@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 3213; Reuters Messaging: michael.holden.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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