January 25, 2017 1:52:38 am
After Kingfisher Airlines, its promoter, Vijay Mallya and other officials, government agencies are now set to take action against some of India’s top loan defaulters. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has firmed up plans to move a Mumbai court to obtain a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against Jatin Mehta the promoter of Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery Ltd, the second largest bank loan defaulter in the country after Kingfisher Airlines, sources familiar with the development told The Indian Express.
Winsome Diamonds and its subsidiaries owe about Rs 7,000 crore to a consortium of 15 public and private banks led by Standard Chartered and the Punjab National Bank (PNB). “The ED is planning to move court to obtain a non-bailable warrant as Mehta has failed to appear before the agency in connection with the on-going investigations despite three summons,” said a source.
Last year in June, The Indian Express had first reported that Mehta and his wife Sonia had given up Indian citizenship and become citizens of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, a dual-island Caribbean nation with which India does not have an extradition treaty and which is known to be a tax haven. Mehta is currently residing in Dubai, said investigators probing the case. If the ED is able to secure a non-bailable warrant against Mehta from the court, it will forward it to UAE for extradition under MLAT.
On January 4, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in a meeting with the lenders, CBI and ED officials discussed the progress of the investigations in the Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery loan default case. CVC had handed over the Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery case to the CBI for criminal investigation in 2014. So far there have been no arrests by CBI or ED in this case. Even after two years, the CBI has not filed a chargesheet in the case.
Meanwhile, the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) in Ahmedabad on January 21 issued a notice for sale of 10 properties of Winsome Diamonds in Kolkata, Goa, Bengaluru, Jodhpur, Surat and Mumbai. The public e-auction of these properties will be held on February 27 to recover a part of the total “sum of Rs 4,258.11 crore”, the auction notice said. According to the auction notice, the DRT is hoping to raise at least Rs77.77 crore from these ten properties.
The ED has so far attached properties/plants and machinery worth Rs 171.97 crore of Winsome Diamonds Group under the stringent Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in what it has called a “bank fraud case”.
In October 2016, the agency raided Forever Precious Jewellery and Diamond Ltd, an associate firm of Winsome Diamonds that owes Rs 2,121.82 crore to a set of banks led by PNB. The ED also searched the residence of its former managing director Jay Kumar Begani.
Now, the company owes Rs 4,680 crore to a consortium of banks headed by Standard Chartered Bank. The company’s associate firm Forever Precious Diamonds and Jewellery owes another Rs 2,121.82 crore to a set of banks led by PNB. The company was classified as a “wilful defaulter” by banks in October 2013.
“The ED has summoned me only once and I have replied to the summons in detail. Infact I understand that the ED has already filed a case which consists of my statements. This is part of the RUD which was given to the company. I have always co-operated with the agencies in India since the beginning of the investigation. We have also filed 26 cases against the defaulting customers in Sharjah court and obtained favorable orders from the court,” said Jatin Mehta over the phone.
According to Mehta , one of the lenders has already signed a bilateral agreement with the defaulting customer in UAE to settle the dues.
“I am trying my best to help recover the money and have submitted all the documents required by the investigative agencies. I have told them(agencies) that I am always available for any assistance needed for the probe,” said Mehta.
Mehta also said he resigned from the board of the company in July 2012 much before the troubles of Winsome Diamonds began.
“The trouble began when other directors were in-charge of the company,” Mehta said.
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