LONDON: Nirav Modi entered the UK on a ‘golden visa’, a tier-1 (investor) visa issued by the British government to investors outside the European Union on a commitment to invest £2 million in UK government bonds or shares of a company, sources in the UK government told TOI on Thursday.
The sources revealed that the visa was issued on Modi’s Indian passport. Modi has been on the run from India since January 2018 and the Enforcement Directorate has filed a case to declare him an economic offender under a new law enacted last year.
A golden visa allows a person to work, study or set up a business in the UK. The one-time investment of £2 million has to remain invested for five years before the visa holder becoming eligible for permanent residency. But that can be accelerated if more is invested. Application for the visa can be made from overseas.
TOI has also tracked down a jewellery business- called Diamond Holdings- linked to the Centre Point London apartment block where Modi is believed to be staying.
Although the exact date of Modi’s entry into the UK is not known, sources told TOI that he flew in from New York towards the end of February — after the Rs 13,000 crore scam had blown up and he was spotted at a luxury hotel in New York. Modi’s passport was revoked in February, but the golden visa was, apparently, issued a few years ago. Revocation of passport does not affect the validity of visa.
Nirav Modi is believed to have travelled on his revoked Indian passport until around November 2018, when a red corner notice was properly issued against him by Interpol. One of the countries he had visited between February and November 2018 was Belgium where he had applied for asylum, sources told TOI. Now, he cannot legally leave the UK. He has not been able to travel, but can continue to run his business.
The papers in possession of TOI show that Diamond Holdings was set up on May 24, 2018 to do business in “wholesale of watches and jewellery, retail sales of watches and jewellery in specialised stores and specialised design activities.” The registered address of the company is 4th floor Scottish Provident House, 76/80 college road, Harrow HA1 1BQ. This is also the address of Modi’s accountants, Dattani Chartered Accountants.
The UK daily the Daily Telegraph had tracked down Modi to the 33-storey luxury apartment block Centre Point off Oxford Street last week and said he had started a new diamond business. The newspaper reported he walked every day with his dog from his luxury three-bedroomed flat to the office of the diamond business, but did not name the business.
Diamond Holdings has one officer, a 55-year-old British accountant named Raju Thakorbhai Patel. Patel runs an accountancy firm in Edgware, a district in North London. His residential address is listed as the Centre Point apartment tower on Companies House- the UK’s registrar of companies. According to the title deeds, the apartment was bought for £7.95 million in cash on January 5, 2018.
The agent’s name in the certificate of incorporation of Diamond Holdings is Balmoral Corporate Services Limited, which is also based at Scottish Provident House in Harrow. It used to be called Dattani Corporate Services and Nitin Dattani, the director of Dattani Chartered Accountants, used to be its secretary and director.
In June 2018 TOI had reported that Modi had been using Dattani Accountants in College Row, Harrow for the accounting of Nirav Modi Limited, his UK-registered company, which is a subsidiary of Nirav Modi Limited, registered in Hong Kong that runs the fugitive billionaire’s jewellery and watch retail showrooms. Dattani Chartered Accountants was also the registered office of Nirav Modi Limited in the UK until March 29, 2018 when the registered office switched to that of his jewellery shop in Old Bond Street in Mayfair, now seized by Debt Squared–UK’s national enforcement agency. Dattani Chartered Accountants was also the registered auditors for Nirav Modi Limited in the accounts for the year ending March 31, 2017.
In the offshore leaks database managed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Dattani Chartered Accountants is linked to 53 entities in the Panama Papers.
The balance sheet (up to December 31, 2017) of Nirav Modi Limited UK shows the company in a dire condition. While the amount it is owed by debtors has fallen slightly to £1.7m compared to March 2017, trade creditors increased by £2.5 million between March and December 2017 meaning it now owes creditors £11.3 million. The accumulated loss at December 2017 has increased to £1.9 million from £168,000 in March 2017–indicating a loss of £1.7 million in nine months.