Back in 2010, diamond businessman Nirav Modi was a relative unknown. Then, one of his creations, the Golconda Lotus Necklace, fetched $3.6 million at auction. Overnight, he became the most wanted man in the jewelry business. He's still wanted now, but for very different reasons. After his spectacular rise to fame, Modi's story took a dramatic turn in 2018 when the Indian government's Central Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into his activities following allegations of fraud from the Punjab National Bank. Rather than face the music, he ran. The law eventually caught up with him, and he's now languishing in Wandsworth Prison in the UK, waiting to hear if his appeal against his extradition to India will be successful. It's an extraordinary story, and one we'll soon be hearing more of once the planned TV serialization of his life hits our screens. In the meantime, here are 10 things you didn't know about Nirav Modi to whet your appetite.
1. He's got a star-studded client list
His other faults may be well publicized, but there's no indication that Modi is a serial name-dropper. Should he want to, however, he's got more names to drop than most. Just a small sample of his star-studded client list includes Kate Winslet, Steven Spielberg, Sharon Stone, and Aishwarya Rai... although whether any of them are still happy to have their name associated with his is another matter entirely. Priyanka Chopra, who was roped in as his brand's global ambassador before the scandal hit, has already gone to some pains to have her ties with the label wiped from history.
2. Donald Trump Jr. opened his first store in NYC
When Modi opened his first store in New York's Madison Avenue in 2015, he decided to do it with a bang... or rather, a Trump. Before he became best known as the son of the 45th president of the US, Donald Trump Jr. was a serial ribbon cutter, and did a fine job of welcoming Modi to NYC. Also in attendance at the launch were Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated actress, Naomi Watts, supermodel Coco Rocha, model turned actress Lisa Haydon, and Homeland star Nimrat Kaur.
3. He comes from a family of diamond merchants
It's not too surprising that Modi got into the business he did. The businessman, who was born in Gujarat, India but raised in Antwerp, Belgium, comes from a long line of diamond merchants. The most famous of them is his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi, who serves as the managing director of the Gitanjali group, one of India's largest diamond companies.
4. His life is being turned into a TV series
A multi-millionaire diamond billionaire with friends in Bollywood and clients in Hollywood is an interesting enough story, but when that billionaire also happens to be a fugitive from justice, the story goes from interesting to watchable. Or so the production company Abundantia Entertainment believes. The company has recently acquired the rights of journalist Pavan C. Lall's book, 'Flawed: The Rise and Fall of India's Diamond Mogul Nirav Modi,' and have confirmed plans to adapt it into a dramatized, multi-season series for streaming. According to reports, scripting is already underway.
5. He met his wife at college
Modi spent a couple of years at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania but dropped out before graduating. His time wasn't completely wasted though - while there, he met Ami Choksey, the daughter of the diamond businessman Amukuraj Choksey. The pair eventually married and now share three children - a son and two daughters. Before Modi's fall from grace, Ami ran the Nirav Modi Scholarship for Excellence, a needs-based scholarship that offers financial support and mentoring to 250 students every year.
6. He launched his first business in 1999
After dropping out of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Modi spent ten years learning everything there was to know about the diamond trading business. In 1999, he put his training to good use with the launch of the diamond sourcing and trading company Firestone. The company, which was later rebranded as Firestar, serves as the sole distributor of Rio Tinto’s Argyle pink diamonds in India. In 2002, he began manufacturing jewelry on a contract basis, and in 2007, he moved into the US market via the acquisition of Sandberg & Sikorski and A.Jaffe.
7. He launched the first Nirav Modi boutique in 2010
In 2008, Modi was commissioned by a close friend to make a pair of earrings. He agreed, and the experience inspired him to start his eponymous brand. In 2010, he launched the first Nirav Modi boutique in New Delhi's Defense Colony. Shortly after, he opened a further store in Mumbai. By 2016, he'd opened 17 stores across the world, including in New York, Hong Kong, and Macau.
8. The Golconda Lotus Necklace made his name
As tatlerasia.com writes, in 2010, Modi's career went stratospheric when he designed the Golconda Lotus Necklace. The necklace, which features an antique, 12-carat, pear-shaped diamond as its centerpiece, was featured on the cover of Christie’s catalog in Hong Kong. After selling at auction for a staggering $3.6 million, Modi suddenly became the darling of the jewelry world.
9. He's a wanted man
Few people have fallen quite so spectacularly from grace as Modi. As per Wikipedia, the businessman is currently wanted by both Interpol and the Indian government on counts of criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating, and dishonesty. The charges against him also include corruption, money laundering, fraud, delivery of property, embezzlement, and breach of contract. If all that wasn't enough, he's also being investigated for defrauding the Punjab National bank of $2 million and for defrauding Los Angeles entrepreneur, Paul Alfonso, over two diamond engagement rings that were rather less real than Modi purported.
10. His future hangs in the balance
Since his troubles began, Modi has sought refuge in New York, Hong Kong, and is now serving at Her Majesty's Pleasure in Wandsworth Prison in the UK. On April 15, 2021, the UK Home Secretary signed the extradition order to clear the path for his extraction to India. However, as Times of India reports, in August this year, he was granted permission to appeal the extradition on the grounds that he is mentally ill and poses a high risk of suicide. At the time of writing, the outcome of the appeal is still to be confirmed.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee