A Mumbai court has issued a Letter Rogatory (LR) to the “competent authority of Government of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, asking it to “restrain” Nirav Modi Ltd and Barclays Bank PLC from transferring 1.2 million GBP from the firm’s account with the bank. The LR, issued by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Anil Deorao Palaspagar on March 26, has also requested the competent authority to probe Modi’s UK firm.
A Letter Rogatory is a formal request to a foreign court seeking judicial assistance in probing an entity in another country.
Sources in the tax department said it is planning to obtain similar LRs against 40 other foreign accounts of Modi in the US, UK, UAE, Hong Kong and Morocco, that are currently under probe.
The Income Tax department had moved court claiming that Modi and his firms have “evaded taxes on undisclosed income to the tune of $270 million (over Rs 1,900 crore), most of which is likely to be in the form of undisclosed assets abroad”.
It claimed in its plea that Modi did not disclose details of his account at Barclays Bank in his Income Tax returns. “Therefore, it is suspected that proceeds of crime are parked in this bank account,” it said.
The tax department has filed a case against Modi for “wilful attempt to evade tax, incorrect and false statement in verification, falsification of book of accounts and criminal conspiracy to evade tax”.
The LR, sent under Sections 1, 8 and 9 of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, has sought assistance “to examine orally any person supposed to be acquainted with the fact and circumstances of the case and to record his statement in the course of such examination” in the UK.
Phone calls and text message to Modi’s lawyer, Vijay Aggarwal, did not elicit any response. Modi is being probed by multiple investigative agencies for alleged fraudulent transactions of over Rs 13,400 crore at Punjab National Bank and siphoning of funds, charges that he has denied. Modi and his family left India in January, a few days before the scam at PNB broke. The government has revoked his passport.