ED brings back ₹1,350cr worth jewels of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi

Out of the 108 consignments that landed at Mumbai, 32 belong to overseas entities "controlled" by Modi while the rest are of Mehul Choksi firms

Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Enforcement Directorate, PNB scam
Modi (49), currently lodged in a UK jail, was declared a fugitive economic offender in December last by the court. File Photo: PTI

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday (June 10) brought back over 2,300 kg of polished diamonds and pearls worth ₹1,350 crore of firms belonging to Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi from Hong Kong, officials said.

Out of the 108 consignments that landed at Mumbai, 32 belong to overseas entities “controlled” by Modi while the rest are of Mehul Choksi firms.

“Value of these goods have been declared to be ₹1,350 crores (approx). These valuables include polished diamonds, pearls, pearl and silver jewelry etc. and were kept in the godown of a logistics company in Hong Kong,” an official statement from the agency said.

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The ED completed “all legal formalities” with authorities in Hong Kong to bring back these valuables. These will formally seized under the PMLA now, the agency said.

In first such order passed under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA), a special court in Mumbai on Monday (June 8) allowed attachment and confiscation of assets owned by diamantaire Nirav Modi, a key accused in the multi- crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.

Related news: Nirav Modi’s extradition case in UK adjourned till September

Special Judge V C Barde permitted the ED to confiscate those assets owned by Modi under the Fugitive Economic Offender Act that are not mortgaged or hypothecated to the PNB.

The court, in its order, said the assets shall be attached by the ED under the provisions of the FEO Act within one month.

After that, the said properties/assets shall stand confiscated to the Central government under section 12(2) and 8 of the FEO Act, it said.

This is the first order of asset confiscation passed under the FEO Act, enacted two years ago, anywhere in the country.

Senior advocate Nitesh Jain from Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas law firm, who appeared for PNB, said the court has allowed those assets, that have not been mortgaged, secured or hypothecated to the bank, to be attached and confiscated.

The special court, however, did not permit the ED to attach the paintings owned by Modi and seized by the Income Tax department as the Bombay High Court had earlier directed for the artworks to be auctioned but the money to be deposited and not disbursed.

The special court said the ED was at liberty to pursue legal remedies with respect to the paintings seized by the Income Tax department. Modi (49), currently lodged in a UK jail, was declared a fugitive economic offender in December last by the court.

He was arrested in London in March 2019 and is presently fighting extradition to India, where he faces charges of fraud and money laundering in connection with the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.

The jeweller was the second person to be declared a fugitive under the FEO Act after beleaguered businessman Vijay Mallya, who is also in the UK.

Related news: Congress trying its best to save Nirav Modi, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

The FEO Act is aimed at deterring economic offenders from evading the law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. The law seeks to expedite the recovery of losses incurred by banks and other entities by confiscating the properties of the offender.

After Modi was declared a fugitive economic offender, the ED had requested the court to issue an order for confiscation of all properties, belonging directly or indirectly to him, both in India and abroad.

The ED had registered two cases of money laundering against Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, also a jeweller and another accused in the scam, on the basis of an FIR lodged against them by the CBI in January last year.

The CBI had alleged that the duo had cheated PNB in connivance with certain bank officials by fraudulently getting Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) issued to their three firms without any collateral and without following prescribed procedure, and caused wrongful loss to the bank.

(With inputs from agencies)

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