NEW DELHI: The Congress and the BJP traded barbs on Saturday over a media report that PNB scam accused Nirav Modi was living in a swanky apartment in the UK, with the opposition alleging that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was running a "fraudster settlement yojana" and the ruling party accusing the UPA of allowing the banks to be "looted" under its watch.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the government was taking all steps for extradition of Nirav Modi from the UK, and asserted that the extradition request made to that country showed that India was aware he is there.
The assertions, claims and counter claims began after British daily The Telegraph reported that Nirav Modi, wanted in India in the Rs 13,500 crore PNB fraud case, was living openly in an eight-million pound apartment in London's West End and running a new diamond business just yards away.
Asked about the report, the MEA said the UK was considering India's request to extradite Nirav Modi.
MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, at a media briefing, said the fact that "we requested the UK government for extradition of Nirav Modi, means that we were aware that he is in UK, otherwise we would not have made the request".
"Just because he has been spotted doesn't mean he can be immediately brought back to India as there is a process in place.
We have made a request for extradition, it is for the UK government now to consider our request and respond to the demand of the CBI and ED for extradition," he said.
Amid the raging political debate, the Enforcement Directorate said the United Kingdom's home secretary has recently referred India's request for extraditing Nirav Modi to a court for initiating legal proceedings against the diamantaire.
Also, officials involved with the proceedings in the UK confirmed in London that UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has certified India's extradition request for Nirav Modi.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, taking to Twitter, took a swipe at Prime Minister Modi saying that the recent video of Nirav Modi in the UK shows an "uncanny similarity" between the two as both "believe they are above the law".
The Congress also alleged that fugitives had looted Rs 1 lakh crore from Indian banks but not even one of them had been caught during the five years of the Modi government.
"The video of fugitive #NiravModi in London shows an uncanny similarity between him & his bhai, PM Modi. Both have looted India and are called Modi. Both refuse to answer any questions. Both believe they are above the law. Both will face justice," the Congress chief tweeted.
The BJP hit back saying "profound argument from a man who himself has a stolen surname".
"BTW, is it not true that in Sept 2013, you visited Nirav Modi's bridal jewellery exhibition in Delhi and the very next day Allahabad Bank approved loan to him, despite opposition from bank's director?" the party said in a tweet.
Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar Saturday held the Congress responsible for the alleged financial frauds involving Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and Mehul Choksi, asserting that all such fugitives will be extradited to India under the Modi government.
"After Nirav Modi was spotted in London, Congress people are happy that he is spending good time there, but the Modi government will bring back all the fugitives. They (fugitives) as well as those who helped them will be punished," he said at a press conference in Jaipur. They were allowed to loot banks. The then prime minister Manmohan Singh had also said Kingfisher airlines (owned by Vijay Mallya) should be helped. It was the Congress government which allowed them to take away depositors' money," he alleged.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power at the Centre from 2004 to 2014 after which the Narendra Modi dispensation assumed office.
"Many of these who cheated India during the UPA government have been brought back and are in custody. Others will follow. They are living the life of fugitives and refugees," the BJP tweeted.
Targeting the BJP, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: "Fugitive Nirav Modi has been seen enjoying in London, living in a Rs 75 crore flat and wearing a 10,000 pound jacket."
"First loot Rs 23,000 crore from banks, then run away from the country without any checks, mock the CBI and the ED, and then make a comfortable home in a Rs 75 crore flat.
Modi is there, so it is possible," he claimed.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that the Modi government allowed economic offenders Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya to flee the country, and wondered whether this was the prime minister's "patriotism".
"Why did Modi government make the two flee country. Is this the patriotism of Modi ji?" the Aam Aadmi Party chief tweeted in Hindi.
Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, at a press conference, said it is another instance in which the Modi government has proved that "their slogan 'Modi hai toh mumkin hai' (It's possible if there is Modi) is correct for fraudsters".
"The country is now a witness to the 'Narendra Modi fraudster settlement yojana'," she said.
Nirav Modi, 48, was tracked down to a three-bedroom flat occupying half of a floor of the landmark Centre Point tower block of luxury apartments, where rent is estimated to be around 17,000 pounds a month, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.