Nirav Modi, accused of swindling $1.8 billion, was with Narendra Modi at Davos

Nirav Modi at Davos.
Nirav Modi at Davos.
Image: PIB
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Nirav Modi, accused of pulling off possibly India’s biggest bank fraud, was posing for pictures with prime minister Narendra Modi just a few weeks ago. The billionaire diamond merchant was part of the delegation of Indian businessmen and corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.

Here is a group photo from Jan. 23, of the prime minister, some of his key bureaucrats, and Indian CEOs, including Nirav Modi (in red circle) at the world’s biggest capitalist conclave in Switzerland:

Nirav Modi at Davos.
Image: PIB

He was also part of the 2016 delegation to Davos led by finance minister Arun Jaitley.

On Wednesday (Feb. 14), Punjab National Bank (PNB), the country’s second-largest state-owned lender, informed stock exchanges that it had detected a massive $1.77 billion fraud at one of its branches in Mumbai. The Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s main investigative agency, first filed a case in this regard on Jan. 31. On Thursday (Feb. 15), the enforcement directorate, a specialised financial crime investigation agency, reportedly raided at least 10 properties owned by Nirav Modi.

In the picture above, Nirav Modi is seen standing next to Rajnish Kumar, chairman of India’s largest state-owned lender, State Bank of India (SBI), which also gave a loan to the diamond merchant based on PNB’s guarantee

This is the second case of a massive alleged fraud to explode during the tenure of the Modi government. In February 2016, another billionaire Vijay Mallya, who was also a member of parliament, was accused of laundering money away from Indian state-owned banks, leaving them with unpaid dues of about Rs9,000 crore.

Mallya managed to escape to the UK before Indian law enforcement agencies could nab him. If Nirav Modi has indeed fled India as news reports suggest, there will be a lot for the Modi government to explain—again.