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The fugitive diamond merchant also claimed to have duly replied to the ED's summons. (File)

Mumbai: 

Diamond merchant Nirav Modi, prime accused in the PNB fraud case, told a court in Mumbai on Saturday that the Punjab National Bank gave "colour of criminality" to "usual civil banking transactions" to hide its own poor performance.

Nirav Modi's lawyer filed his reply to the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) plea seeking to declare the diamond merchant a fugitive under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA) before a special court.

"Even though it has been attempted to be portrayed that a grave act has been committed by the accused, in reality, the same is a usual civil banking transaction, having been given a colour of criminality," the reply said.

"It can be said that the motivation for the prosecution by the PNB (Punjab National Bank) is the desire of the bank to avoid its liability towards its co-bankers and put the blame....to avoid any criticism regarding poor financial performance by PNB," it alleged.

Nirav Modi also reiterated that he cannot return to India due to safety concerns and also because his case has been politicised.

He feared for his safety given the violent threats made against him "as illustrated by the burning of his effigies", the reply said.

Statements made by politicians from all parties showed that they had "prejudged the issue of his guilt" and his case was being used for political purposes, it added.

While he left the country long before a case was registered against him, the ED tried to "falsely implicate" him for offences "backed by shallow claims", Nirav Modi's reply said.

The fugitive diamond merchant also claimed to have duly replied to the ED's summons.

According to the ED, Nirav Modi failed to respond to its summons thrice, after which it filed the plea under the FEOA.

The ED did not mention that he had stated in his reply that he could not travel as his passport had been revoked, Nirav Modi said.

According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi cheated Punjab National Bank of Rs 14,000 crore by fraudulently securing Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) to obtain credit overseas.

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