DRI opposed Nirav Modi’s plea for easy travel to U.S.

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March 21, 2018 23:39 23:39 IST more-in He illegally diverted imported diamonds into local market
Days before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against jeweller Nirav Modi, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) red-flagged his application under a U.S initiative that allows “low-risk” passengers hassle-free access to American airports.
A top government source said the objections were communicated to the Finance Ministry before the CBI filed a First Information Report (FIR) and issued a look-out circular on January 31. Nirav Modi left India on January 1 and his wife on January 6. The Congress released a photograph, dated January 23, of his being part of a business delegation that met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum summit in Davos. Party president Rahul Gandhi alleged that “being seen with the Prime Minister helped the businessman flee the country.”
Nirav Modi, wanted for allegedly cheating the Punjab National Bank of more than ₹12,000 crore, had applied in December last for Global Entry, a programme run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an agency that works under the Department of Homeland Security. It allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in the United States after a rigorous background check.
India became a member of Global Entry in 2017. The U.S. authorities sent his application for security clearance to India. The Ministry of External Affairs sought the Finance Ministry’s response. The DRI said, in its response, that Nirav Modi had evaded duty and illegally diverted imported diamonds into the local market by misusing funds given to firms out of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Surat.
“The DRI opposed the security clearance to Nirav Modi, citing the 2014 inquiry. It said he should not become a member of the elite U.S flyers club as he was involved in a financial fraud,” the official said.
The DRI registered a case on Tuesday against Nirav Modi and his firms based on the 2014 inquiry for allegedly diverting diamonds and pearls worth ₹890 crore to domestic markets through the units located in the Surat SEZ.
A spokesperson of the Income Tax Department told The Hindu that the request from the U.S. authorities was examined, “but no clearance was given.” An official of the Home Ministry said the Ministry did not receive his application as security clearance guidelines were changed in 2015. Under the new guidelines, cases of “threat to financial security” are cleared by the Finance Ministry.

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