The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday conducted searches at 17 premises across India linked to billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi and seized diamond, jewellery, and gold worth Rs 5,100 crore. “Following the FIR, Enforcement Directorate swung into immediate action and searched 17 premises of Nirav Modi & Geetanjali Gems across India including Delhi, Mumbai, Surat & Hyderabad. The stock worth Rs 5100 crore including gold & diamond jewellery, precious stones etc recovered during the searches were seized under PMLA,” the agency said in a statement.
“Certain records have also been resumed for further investigation. Bank balance worth Rs 3.9 crore in accounts & fixed deposits has also been freezed,” the ED statement added.
The raids came after the agency filed a Rs 280-crore money laundering case against Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal and business partner Mehul Choksi yesterday, following a complaint by Punjab National Bank.
PTI quoted ED officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that five properties belonging to Modi and the other accused in Mumbai were sealed by the agency. The officials also said that the agency was now planning to move the Ministry of External Affairs with a plea to revoke his passport
A day after the fraud was detected, ED officials on Thursday landed at Firestar Diamond Pvt Ltd. head office in Bharat Diamond Bourse, in Bandra Kurla Complex, Modi’s private office at Kohinoor City in Kurla West, his showroom and boutique at Itts House in Fort in south Mumbai and a workshop in Peninsula Business Park in Lower Parel.
In Gujarat, six diamond workshops were raided in Surat SEZ at Sachin town and an office in Belgium Towers on Ring Road, the hub of diamond jewellery trade. Two diamond jewellery boutiques of Modi in New Delhi – in Chanakyapuri and Defence Colony – were also raided.
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At least 10 bank employees have been suspended but it is not clear whether anybody from the crucial PNB Credit Approval Committee or its Board of Directors figure among them.
The fraud, which includes money-laundering among others, concerns the Firestar Diamonds group in which the CBI last week booked Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal and a maternal uncle Mehul Choksi. It followed a complaint lodged by PNB on January 29 pertaining to an alleged cheating case of Rs 280 crore perpetrated by these four in 2011.
Earlier in the day, the PNB’s Managing Director Sunil Mehta said it will take “full-capacity” action against the wrong doers in the Rs 11,400-crore Nirav Modi fraud case, which started in 2011. “In the last 123 years, we have seen many ups and down. The bank at its full capacity will take every action to book wrongdoers,” he said addressing media persons in Mumbai.
“PNB has the capability and capacity to overcome this crisis. In response to our registered FIR, the Enforcement Directorate is conducting raids across all groups and establishments who were involved in the act. All necessary documents have been seized. Steps are being taken to protect the financial interest of the bank,” he added.
According to CBI, Nirav Modi had left the country on January 1 much before the CBI received a complaint from Punjab National Bank on January 29 about a Rs 280-crore fraud. He is believed to be in Switzerland.
Nirav’s brother Nishal, a Belgian citizen, also left the country on January 1, while wife Ami, a US citizen, and business partner Mehul Choksi, the Indian promoter of Gitanjali jewellery chain, departed on January 6, officials said.
The CBI issued a lookout circular against all the four after registering the first FIR against them, they said. A lookout circular is issued by enforcement agencies to all exit and entry ports to inform them about the movement of an accused.
(With PTI inputs)