Five of 29 properties of Nirav Modi, attached by the Income Tax (IT) department as part of their tax recovery mechanism, either do not belong to the absconding diamantaire or do not exist, said tax officials familiar with the development.
On February 16, two days after the Punjab National Bank revised the extent of alleged fraudulent transactions by Modi and his firms to Rs 11,400 crore, the Income Tax department provisionally attached 29 properties and 105 bank accounts of Modi, his family and firms as part of its tax evasion probe.
The Indian Express has learnt that at least three properties attached by the tax authority in Mumbai and Delhi do not belong to Modi or any of his firms. For instance, Modi’s showroom, located at ITTS House in Kala Ghoda in South Mumbai and attached by the tax agency, is owned by Mumbai-based businessman Varij Sethi and his family members.
Modi, according to an executive close to the Sethi family, had taken the Kala Ghoda space on leave and licence from the Sethis for the last three years. The Sethis have approached the tax department to release the attached property.
“The property belongs to Varij Sethi, Indira Sethi and Jyoti Sethi. Nirav Modi had signed a leave and licence agreement with the Sethis for a period of three years that ended December 2017. Since Modi was planning to shift to newly-acquired Rhythm House, which is next door to this property, he had extended the lease with Sethis for three months until March 2018 through a supplementary agreement. The Sethi family has now met the Income Tax Commissioner and submitted all documents pertaining to the property. The tax agency has agreed to initiate legal proceedings to remove the attachment,” said the executive who did not wish to be named.
Sources said the corporate office of Firestar Diamond at Trade Point building in Kamala Mills in Central Mumbai and Modi’s boutique located in Defence Colony in New Delhi too were taken on leave and licence from their owners.
Kamala Mills, which houses several buildings, is owned by Ramesh Govani and Ravi Bhandari who were arrested by the N M Joshi Marg police in January in connection with the fire incident in two restaurants on December 29 that killed 14 people. Both are currently in judicial custody after a sessions court rejected their bail last month.
The Indian Express could not reach the owners of the Defence Colony property rented by Modi for a comment.
Sources said Modi owns only three flats, including a penthouse at Samudra Mahal at Worli in Mumbai worth a little over Rs 100 crore. “Modi owns flat numbers 126, 127 and 226 at Samudra Mahal building. Two tax attachment notices for flat numbers 27 and 28 of Samudra Mahal could not be executed as these flats do not exist in the building,” tax department sources said.
Apart from this, Modi’s five business units attached by the tax agency at Surat SEZ were sub-leased to him by Diamond and Gem Development Corporation Ltd (DGDC), the firm that runs the SEZ. According to the website of Surat Special Economic Zone, the DGDC only sub-leases land or ready units to firms to carry out their businesses.