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Nirav Modi’s presence confirmed in UK, CBI moves for extradition

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Nirav Modi

New Delhi  |  The UK has confirmed to the CBI that the fugitive billionaire Nirav Modi, alleged to be the mastermind of India’s biggest banking fraud of over USD 2 billion, is in their country, officials said today.

The Central Bureau of Investigation submitted an extradition request to the home ministry immediately after getting the confirmation, they said.

The request to bring him back will be sent to the United Kingdom through the External Affairs Ministry.

The agency has also requested authorities in the UK to detain him on the basis of the Red Corner Notice issued by the Interpol against him, they said.

The RCN was issued on the request of the CBI in June this year, officials said.

In its RCN issued against a fugitive, the Interpol asks its 192 member countries to arrest or detain the person if spotted in their countries after which extradition or deportation proceedings can begin.

Nirav Modi, along with his wife Ami Modi, a US citizen, brother Nishal Modi, a Belgian citizen, and uncle Mehul Choksi, all accused in the CBI’s FIRs in the case, left the country in the first week of January, weeks before country’s biggest banking scam surfaced.

Choksi has been located in Antigua, where he has taken citizenship, officials said.

Nirav Modi and Choksi have refused to return to India to join the probe, citing business and health reasons, they said.

Nirav Modi managed to travel across several countries even after information about his passport being revoked by the Indian government was flashed in the Interpol central database on February 24, the CBI had said earlier.

“After the passport was revoked/cancelled by the External Affairs Ministry, we had updated this information in the diffusion notice. The information that Nirav Modi’s passport has been revoked was provided in the Interpol central database, available to all the member countries, on February 24,” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal had said.

After the “diffusion” notice was issued by the Interpol on the request of the CBI, the agency followed it up with six countries where Nirav Modi was suspected to have fled to, he had said. The agency requested these countries to share information about his whereabouts and movements.

The agency sent these reminders to the Interpol coordination agency of the United Kingdom on April 25, May 22, May 24 and May 28.

The scam pertains to the alleged issuance of fraudulent Letters of Undertakings (LoUs) of more than USD 2 billion to companies of Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi by the Punjab National Bank’s Brady House branch in Mumbai during 2011-17, officials said.

An LoU is a guarantee given by an issuing bank to Indian banks with branches abroad to grant short-term credit to the applicant.

Nirav Modi and his companies allegedly availed a credit from the overseas branches of Indian banks using the fraudulent PNB guarantees given through LoUs and letters of credit issued by the Brady House branch which were not repaid, bringing the liability on the state-run bank, the officials said.

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Centre trying to implement ₹900 cr sericulture projects in North East

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Itanagar | The Centre is trying to implement Rs 900 crore sericulture projects in the North East to empower farmers and weavers, Union Minister for Textile Smriti Irani on Friday said.

Launching the Integrated Large Scale Eri Farming in Arunachal Pradesh under North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS) at the state assembly here, Irani said the government has decided to provide financial assistance to 4000 beneficiaries under the scheme in the state.

Irani also assured to impart skill training to seri farmers and weavers under the Samarth Scheme, which was launched for capacity building in the textile sector.

There are 27000 looms and 33000 hand-loom weavers in Arunachal Pradesh.

Initially, the project would cover five districts of the state – namely Papumpare, East Kameng, Siang, East Siang and West Siang.

The union minister said that Eri silk farming would be held in about 1000 acres in the chosen districts.

If any registered weaver wants to upgrade their old looms then the government would give 90 percent financial assistance in buying a new one, she added.

“If the children of poor weaver families want to pursue higher studies either through National Institute of Open Schooling or Indira Gandhi National Open University, the government will bear 75 percent of their fees,” she said.

Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju said the traditional weaving culture in the state provides vast opportunity for textile sector and NERTPS is a scheme for women empowerment and employment generation.

Later interacting with the weavers, Irani suggested registration and branding of the loin loom products of every tribe in the state, a Raj Bhawan communique informed.

“This will facilitate access of the loin loom products to international markets,” she added.

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204 lions died in Gir in last two years: Gujarat government

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Gandhinagar | Over 200 lions died in the Gir forest region in the last two years, the Gujarat government told the legislative Assembly on Friday.

Only 27 of these deaths were because of “unnatural” causes such as getting hit by a train or falling into a well, it said.

To a query by Congress’ Bhagabhai Barad, forest minister Ganpat Vasava, in a written reply, said 110 lions and 94 cubs died in 2017 and 2018.

Of the 110 adult lions, 43 died in 2017 and 67 in 2018. Thirty-eight cubs died in 2017 and 56 in 2018, the reply said.

Of the 204 deaths, 27 (21 lions and six cubs) were because of “unnatural causes” such as falling into a well or being run over by a train, the minister said.

Vasava also said that 331 leopards, including 75 cubs, died in Gujarat forests in the last two years, adding the state government was taking various steps to prevent deaths due to unnatural causes.

Some of these preventive measures are building parapets around wells, fencing railway tracks, construction of speed breakers on roads passing through sanctuaries and continuous patrolling, the reply said.

To a question by Congress MLA Pratap Dudhat about the viral infection among lions last year, Vasava said 34 lions died in the last one year due to diseases including Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) infection.

Babesia, Streptococcal bacteria and Gram-negative bacilli infections were also responsible for some of these deaths, the minister said.

The government allocated Rs 21.96 crore for lion conservation in Gir in 2017 and Rs 27.89 crore in 2018, while the contribution of the Union government was Rs 1.92 crore and 1.06 crore for the last two years, he said.

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Rahul offers condolences over spurious liquor deaths in Assam’s Golaghat

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New Delhi | Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday offered condolences to the families of those who died after consuming spurious liquor in Assam’s Golaghat district.

At least 30 people, including seven women, died allegedly after consuming the liquor at a tea garden. Fifty others are undergoing treatment at various hospitals, a district official said.

“I am saddened by the incident which occurred in Assam’s Golaghat area. My deepest condolences to the families of the victims. I hope that those undergoing treatment get well soon,” Gandhi said in a Facebok post.

It is believed that more than 100 people — labourers at Salimira tea garden — consumed the spurious liquor on Thursday night, BJP MLA Mrinal Saikia said.

Police have arrested two people in connection with the deaths.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Two excise officials of the district have been suspended.

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