Raids on Nirav yield Rs 5k cr diamonds, gold

Billionaire fled country before CBI woke up
Last Updated 15 February 2018, 19:13 IST

Investigators seized diamonds and gold worth Rs 5,100 crore from Nirav Modi's premises on Thursday when it emerged that the billionaire diamond merchant, his wife, brother and uncle flew out of India before the CBI named them in the Rs 11,344.40-crore bank fraud.

CBI investigators, who have already issued a lookout circular, suspect that the exit of the Modis from the country separately in the first week of January was "pre-planned", as they anticipated action even before Punjab National Bank (PNB) approached the agency in January-end.

Nirav and brother Nishal, who is a Belgian national, left on January 1 while wife Ami, an American national, flew out six days later. Mehul Choksi, who was also named in the CBI FIR registered on January 31 two days after PNB filed a complaint, took a flight out on January 4.

The exit of the Modis triggered a political slugfest with the Opposition accusing the NDA government of helping them flee while the Narendra Modi dispensation countered it, saying the scam happened during the previous UPA regime and the assets of the accused would be recovered and no one will be spared.

Nirav was also spotted in Davos during the World Economic Forum in the third week of January and his presence in a group photograph with Prime Minister Narendra Modi there was also used by the Opposition to allege connivance.

However, Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad made it clear that Nirav was neither part of the Prime Minister's delegation nor did the disgraced businessman have any interaction with the PM.

PNB chairman and managing director Sunil Mehta said Nirav gave "some vague offers" to repay the amount but there was "nothing concrete".

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which registered a case of money laundering on Wednesday on the basis of the CBI FIR, conducted searches in seventeen locations in Mumbai, Delhi, Surat and Hyderabad from where diamonds, gold and jewellery worth Rs 5,100 crore were seized.

Authorities also froze bank balance of Rs 3.9 crore. Sensitive documents were recovered and six properties were also sealed.

The news of the accused leaving the country emerged as the ED conducted the raids.

The scope of the scam enlarged on Tuesday after PNB detected further fraudulent transactions, apart from the Rs 280.70 crore it initially detected in January, and approached the CBI with fresh information.

While around 95 sensitive documents were seized from Ami's residence, the CBI team got a boost as PNB detected over 150 Letters of Understandings (LoUs) fraudulently issued to transfer money to firms associated with Nirav and handed it over to the investigators.

The CBI investigators have also completed the imaging of computers seized during searches on February 3-4.

(Published 15 February 2018, 06:50 IST)

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