British Security Minister Tom Tugendhat on Sunday said that the United Kingdom has no intention of becoming a place where those seeking to evade justice can hide. He made the comments in response to a question about the extradition of Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, two Indian billionaires who are wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering.
Tugendhat said that the UK government is committed to extraditing fugitives to face justice, and that it is working closely with the Indian government on the cases of Modi and Mallya. He added that the UK will not allow its legal system to be used to protect those who have committed crimes.
Nirav Modi, a diamond merchant, and Vijay Mallya, the former Kingfisher Airlines head, both fled to the UK after their names surfaced in huge financial scams in India. These magnates stand accused of defrauding the state-owned Punjab National Bank and a consortium of banks, respectively. The Indian government, thus, has been relentlessly pushing for their extradition from the UK to face trial in India.
"We both (the UK and India) have legal processes that must be gone through. But the UK government is absolutely clear, we have no intention of becoming a place where those who are seeking to evade justice can hide," he told PTI in an interview.
In Delhi, he held talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Nirav Modi is a fugitive Indian diamond merchant who is wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering. He is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over $2 billion, using fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs).
Modi was arrested in London in March 2019 and has been fighting extradition to India ever since. He has denied the charges against him.
In December 2022, the UK Supreme Court rejected Modi's final appeal against extradition. The court ruled that there were no bars to Modi's extradition and that he should be sent to India to face trial.
Mallya, who fled to the UK in March 2016, is wanted in India over a default of Rs 9,000 crore that was loaned to Kingfisher Airlines by several banks.
When asked about his discussions with NSA Doval, the British Security Minister declined to comment on the specifics, but emphasised that the broad bilateral collaboration is focused on the security of the two countries and the prosperity of their citizens.
"We're talking about the security of our two nations and the prosperity of our citizens, their ability to conduct their business at home and abroad," he said.
"But we're also talking about the challenges we face and we've both made it clear in different ways that the challenge of China is one that faces us both and we've seen incidents on your northern border, but we've also seen the way in which technology has changed and the way in which we need to address it as areas in which we need to have greater cooperation," he said.
Tugendhat emphasised how India and the United Kingdom are collaborating on emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
"We see today that India is not just a centre of Indian AI, it's also a centre of British AI," he said.
"There are many firms whose data points, whose data sources are located here, often in Bangalore, and using the extraordinary technical capabilities of Indian AI experts to analyse data and to improve the productivity of their businesses," he added.
"This is a fantastic benefit both to the United Kingdom and of course to India. And so making sure that we're able to do that, we're protecting our interests and we're developing those technologies is absolutely essential to our common future," Tugendhat noted.
With inputs from PTI
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