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PNB Rs 11,400 cr scam: Diamond czar Nirav Modi, uncle Mehul Choksi planned to flee India in November, says report

Diamantaire Nirav Modi and owner of Gitanjali Gems, Mehul Choksi, the nephew-uncle duo, had planned to flee India back in November 2017 when there was a major organisational reshuffle at the Brady House Branch of Punjab National Bank (PNB), according to a report in the Indian Express.

The branch located in South Mumbai has been at the centre of Rs 11,400 crore fraud that has rocked the bank as well as the entire banking fraternity in the country.

 PNB Rs 11,400 cr scam: Diamond czar Nirav Modi, uncle Mehul Choksi planned to flee India in November, says report

Diamantaire Nirav Modi (left) and his uncle Mehul Choksi, founder Gitanjali Gems. Courtesy: YouTube

According to this Indian Express report, two officials who were instrumental in issuing the letters of undertaking (LoU) and letters of credit (LC) to companies run by the accused duo, had already left the country in the same month.

With the arrival of new staff at Brady House Branch, Modi and Choksi felt they might come under the crosshairs of investigating agencies and due to which they wanted to abscond, according to the IE report. However, for reasons known to only them, Modi and Choksi chose to stay back in India evading the attention of law enforcement agencies.

Modi left for the United States on 1 January, 2018. Neeshal, his brother, who is a Belgian citizen left on the same day while Modi's wife Ami - a US citizen, left on 6 January, the IE report said, quoting an official.

ED conducts raids

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has called Modi,  Ami and Choksi for questioning on Monday (today) and if they fail to depose before the agency then a non-bailable warrant will be issued against them, reported Business Standard. If the accused skip the summons, the agency may approach a special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court to get non-bailable warrants against them.

Widening its probe into the PNB fraud case, the ED will soon send judicial requests to over a dozen countries for obtaining information about the overseas businesses and assets of Modi and Mehul Choksi, a PTI report said.

Official sources said the agency will approach a competent court in Mumbai with a request to obtain Letters Rogatories (LRs) to be sent to about 15-17 countries where the central investigation agency has traced the footsteps of the diamond and gold jewellery businesses of the firms owned by Modi, his uncle Choksi and others associated with them.

The countries where the LRs would be sent include Belgium, Hong Kong, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Dubai, Singapore and South Africa. Some official requests on the basis of agency-to-agency exchange will also be sent to few countries, the sources said. The attempt of sending these judicial requests for exchange of information is aimed at obtaining the details of the overseas financial holdings of Modi and Choksi, who are accused in the Rs 11,400 crore PNB loan fraud case, their bank accounts, assets, partnerships, showrooms, trusts and other assets, they said.

These assets and their sources of income will be investigated and if necessary would be attached under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) if it is found that they have been created using tainted funds or the proceeds of crime of the alleged bank fraud, the sources said, according to IANS.

Besides the ED, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting investigations.

The ED, which is also probing the financial angle in the case, on Saturday said it has attached Nirav Modi's 21 immovable properties worth Rs 523.72 crore, according to IANS. The assets include a farm house in Alibaug (Rs 42.70 crore) near Mumbai seashore, a solar power plant spread over 53 acre of land in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar (Rs 70 crore) and another 135 acre land in Ahmednagar (Rs 2.20 crore), along with other residential and office properties worth Rs 408.82 crore in Mumbai and Pune, a IANS report said.

The ED on Friday is said to have frozen Nirav Modi's bank account and shares worth Rs 43 crore. The ED had earlier seized bank deposits, shares and luxury cars worth over Rs 100 crore belonging to the businessman and his group. The agency has also frozen mutual funds and shares worth Rs 7.80 crore of Nirav Modi and Rs 86.72 crore belonging to his uncle Choksi. Its action comes in the wake of its ongoing probe -- along with the CBI -- against the two and many others including directors of their companies and bank officials into the alleged bank fraud, the IANS report said.

The CBI on Saturday questioned PNB Managing Director-cum-CEO Sunil Mehta and Executive Director K V Brahmaji Rao in connection with the Rs 11,300 crore/$1.8 billion bank fraud case, while the ED kept on its seizure of Modi's assets. Both the bank officials were called at the CBI's Mumbai branch and were questioned for over eight hours. Mehta and Rao were questioned for the first time even since the CBI filed the first FIR in the multi-crore scam on 14 February, against Modi, Ami, Nishal, Choksi and his firms Diamond R US, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamond, PTI said.

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Updated Date: Feb 26, 2018 14:08:50 IST

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