Over 9,000 CVD diamonds seized by the CBI from a Surat unit of Mehul Choksi — which were at the time of the raid estimated to be worth Rs 1.06 crore — has now been valued at just Rs 10 lakh. The agency is probing the alleged over Rs 13,000-crore fraud in Punjab National Bank (PNB) by diamantaires Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi.
A CBI source said: “At the time of the raid, we were told that the diamonds were worth Rs 1.06 crore… this was based on the statements given by the employees and the book value of the assets. We had then sent the seized items for evaluation and have recently received a report… The valuers have pegged the value of the CVD (chemical vapor deposition) diamonds at a paltry Rs 10 lakh, which is over 10 times less than the original quoted value.”
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing the money laundering aspect in the case, is also awaiting reports from independent valuers. So far, the ED has attached properties worth over Rs 7,000 crore. Earlier, ED director Karnal Singh had said that the value of the seizure is based on the book value of the assets and the agency was getting an independent evaluation conducted.
Earlier this week, the CBI had written to the Finance Ministry about queries pertaining to the 80:20 scheme for gold imports. The agency had reportedly written to the chief vigilance officer seeking details on who proposed the scheme and how was it launched.Seven officials of RBI were earlier examined by the CBI on the 80:20 scheme.
“Exploiting the scheme, the two raised loans through letter of undertakings (LoUs) issued by PNB. Following the examination of the RBI officials, who told us that the scheme was introduced by the previous government, which eased the criteria and allowed private traders through a circular issued in May 2014, we decided to write to the finance ministry. The circular was issued a few days before the UPA government remitted office,” an official said.
The May 21, 2014 circular, based on which the RBI officials were examined, pertained to a circular that laid down conditions, under which Star Trading Houses/Premier Trading Houses (STH/PTH) — registered as nominated agencies by Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) — could import gold under the 80:20 scheme. Under the scheme, while 80 per cent of gold imports could be sold in the country, at least 20 per cent of the imports had to be exported before importers could bring in new consignments. The permission to import the next lot was to be given on fulfillment of the export obligation.
In a related development, the CBI on Saturday questioned several “directors” of three Choksi firms — Gitanjali Gems Limited, Gilli India Limited and Nakshatra Brand Limited — who have been named in the FIR. In all, 10 “directors” have been named as accused in the FIR lodged by the CBI. The addresses of these directors have been traced to chawls or middle-class residential complexes in far-flung suburbs of Mumbai. In almost all cases, the directors were not found staying at the mentioned addresses and have rented their places.
“They will be quizzed over the weekend. Our probe has revealed that most of them were employees in the three firms owned by Choksi. We are probing if any consideration was given to them to come onboard as directors.” said an official.