THE INCOME Tax department has raided over 50 offices and residential premises of Nirav Modi, one of India’s top diamond merchants, and seized cash, jewellery and several documents that allegedly reveal tax evasion by Modi’s firms, said sources familiar with the investigation.
According to sources, the raids were carried out over 10 days ago and lasted for over four days, covering Modi’s office and residences in Mumbai, premises in Delhi, Jaipur and SEZ units in Surat.
The Income Tax department also conducted a survey on the offices of Gitanjali Group — one of the largest diamond companies in India and a listed jewellery retailer promoted by Modi’s maternal uncle Mehul Choksi — in connection with the ongoing investigation. Modi, who grew up in Antwerp in Belgium, worked closely with Choksi for about 10 years.
The tax department is probing over half-a-dozen firms of Modi, including Firestar Diamond International Pvt Ltd, Firestar International and Stellar Diamond among others. Modi’s firms are suspected to have received money from shell companies through real time gross settlement (RTGS), according to sources.
“The Income-Tax department has been carrying on searches of several firms in the gems and jewellery industry, and our group is not an exception but just one more. We have fully cooperated with the department to provide documents and clarifications. The search has taken place and concluded. Firestar is a group which conducts its business in absolute compliance with the law,” said the official spokesperson of Firestar Diamond.
A recent entrant to the billionaire club, Modi was named in the Forbes India’s Richest People List 2016, with a net worth of $1.74 billion. Modi is known for his high-value jewellery that cost as much as Rs 50 crore and regularly feature at auctions conducted by houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s. In 2010, Modi’s Golconda necklace sold for Rs 16.29 crore at a Christie’s auction.
The tax authority has claimed that its probe has uncovered several discrepancies in Modi’s six SEZ units in Surat. Sources said it has found evidence of bogus purchases and cash sales that were not recorded in the books of the firms.
When contacted, Choksi, chairman and managing director of Gitanjali Group, said he was not aware of any tax probe against Modi.
“Firstly, I wish to point out that there was no search conducted by the Income Tax department on Gitanjali Group. However, the department did conduct a survey on few of our premises and the matter was concluded immediately. Secondly, I am unaware of any tax probe pertaining to Mr Modi,” said Choksi in an email.
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