The PNB thief Nirav Modi had tried to acquire a citizenship of Vanuatu, almost three months before the recognition of Rs 13,600-crore banking fraud in the state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB). Vanuatu is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean.

Diamond jeweller Nirav Modi had transferred $195,000 from his personal account to one of the 18 authorised agents of the Vanuatu government who provides Citizenship by Investment program of the country, in November 2017.

However, the approach to get citizenship in the country was rejected by the Vanuatu government as it unearthed “adverse findings” against him.

Justin Ngwele, managing partner of Vanuatu-based law firm Indigene Lawyers which processed Modi’s application said “The purpose of the $195,000 was to pay the application fee for honorary Vanuatu citizenship. However, a Government Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) probity check found adverse findings against Mr Modi. Therefore his application was not considered by the Government,” while responding to questions on email.

The Vanuatu government offers dual citizenship which allows foreigners to become citizens through investment under its honorary citizenship program. The charges to be paid for getting citizenship is $160,000 with an additional fee of $5,000 for FIU due diligence.

Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi are accused of PNB scam of Rs 13,600 crore through fraudulent issue of letters LoUs and foreign letters of credit (FLCs). Both the culprits, Modi and Choksi left India in the first week of January. Nirav Modi is residing in the UK and has applied for asylum in June whereas Choksi got the citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda.

Ngwele confirmed that his country was no more dealing with Mr Modi and his family. The  Vanuatu government found “adverse findings” against Modi through the FIU probity check of his country and rejected his application. It even returned his (Modi’s) money back to him.

Vanuatu has 810 non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin, as per the data released by India’s Ministry of External Affairs till December 2017.