Officials at the Surat customs department have begun the procedure to declare fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi as an absconder, submitting an application under Section 82 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) at the district Chief Judicial Magistrate’s (CJM) court on Thursday. The hearing of the application has been slated for August 13.
A case of duty evasion has been registered against the businessman, who has been accused of cheating Punjab National Bank (PNB) to the tune of Rs 13,500 crore.
Advocate Nayan Sukhadwala, District government pleader of Surat court, said, “Nirav Modi failed to appear before the court within the given time period. The custom officials have, therefore, begun the procedure of declaring him an absconder under Section 82 of the CrPC. The court has accepted the application and has fixed the hearing for Monday. If no representative from Modi’s side appears in the court, we will be forced to request the court to carry out the procedure as the businessman is unreachable.”
Sukhadwala added, “According to the process, the court will issue a notification, directing Modi to appear before it in the next 30 days. If he fails, then the procedure of attaching his properties will be initiated.”
While the customs department had earlier issued a warrant under Section 70 of CrPC, Modi failed to appear before the district CJM court of J H Kapadia within the time period of 30 days.
According to officials, on December 5, 2014, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had seized three consignments of diamond jewellery of the three firms owned by the businessman at Surat Hira bourse in Mumbai. Modi’s firms, like Firestar International Diamonds Limited, Firestar International Private Limited, Radhashir Jewellery, are situated in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) at Sachin in Surat. The consignments were meant to be exported to USA, Canada, Dubai and Hong Kong.
However, upon checking the consignment, DRI officials found discrepancies in the documents produced by the firms. While the documents produced by the firms showed the jewellery was worth Rs 9.34 crore, the actual value by a government approved valuer was found to be Rs 4.39 crore.
As per SEZ norms, sources in the DRI said, Modi’s firms, which imports goods, should export the same by adding value to it, for tasks like cutting and polishing or studding the jewellery with diamonds.
Officials, however, found that Modi had imported diamonds of high quality but exported those of poor quality. The imported diamonds were sold by him in the domestic market.