The UK is a favourite destination for India’s fugitives

New home.
New home.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Winning
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Billionaire fraudsters, besides those accused of economic offences, terrorism, and other crimes in India, seem to prefer the United Kingdom as a destination to seek refuge.

On June 10, the Financial Times newspaper reported that diamantaire Nirav Modi, accused of perpetrating a $2 billion fraud, the biggest in Indian banking history, has applied for political asylum in that country. Modi, on the run even before the fraud was first reported in January, now alleges political persecution in India where a non-bailable warrant has been issued against him and his uncle Mehul Choksi, a partner in his alleged crime.

Individuals granted political asylum gain refugee status and are allowed to stay in a country for five years, which can later be extended. According to the United Nations, an individual can be a legal refugee in a country if they can prove a threat to life on the basis of race, religion, political belief, political affiliations, gender, etc.

The UK is believed to be the top choice among such persons the world over since its legal system grants significant importance to human rights, according to legal experts. Since 2013, over 5,500 Indians have applied for refugee status in the UK. Here are some of the famous names:

Vijay Mallya: The poster boy of Indian defaulters; he fled the country in 2016 after having failed to repay Rs9,000 crore borrowed from 17 banks. The flamboyant former liquor baron, too, has alleged that he was being targeted by vested interests in India.

Lalit Modi: He created India’s most-watched sporting event till date, the multi-billion dollar Indian Premier League. In 2010, he was accused of corruption, money-laundering, and financial irregularities. Over two dozen cases have been filed against him by various agencies. Modi has been in London since 2010.

Sanjeev Chawla: The main bookie in the match-fixing scandal of 2000 involving South African cricket team captain Hanse Cronje. Chawla has been living in the UK since 1996.

Ravi Shankaran: A former naval officer charged with military espionage for leaking classified information. In 2006, the Central Bureau of Investigation booked Shankaran who’s been absconding since then.

Tiger Hanif: An aide of notorious gangster Dawood Ibrahim, Hanif is an accused in the 1993 Gujarat bombing case in which an eight-year-old child was killed and several others injured. He fled to Pakistan and subsequently made his way to Britain.

Nadeem Saifi: He was accused of conspiring to murder Gulshan Kumar, singer and founder of the T-Series music label, in August 1997. Saifi was in London when an arrest warrant was issued against him, and he hasn’t returned to India since.