Nirav Modi's ex-director moves HC for quashing LOC

Nirav Modi's ex-director moves HC for quashing LOC

Nirav Modi. Reuters file photo

A former director of diamantaire Nirav Modi's company on Tuesday moved the Delhi High Court seeking the quashing of a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against him after the lodging of an FIR by the CBI in the PNB fraud case.

The high court sought the response of the CBI on the plea by Sanjay Rishi, an Overseas Citizen of India residing in the United States, seeking direction to the authorities to withdraw the LOC.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued a notice to the CBI and SFIO, which is also conducting an investigation into the matter, and listed the matter for further hearing on July 25.

Rishi, president of American Express for South Asia, was appointed as a non-executive independent director of Nirav Modi's Firestar International Ltd on December 6, 2016, and he resigned from the post on February 7.

He said he did not take part in the day-to-day affairs of the company.

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Rishi, submitted that an FIR was lodged on March 4 for the offences of cheating, criminal conspiracy under the IPC and the provisions of the Corruption Act and when summonses were issued to him, he voluntarily came to India and joined the CBI investigation.

The counsel argued that Rishi was not being allowed to leave the country due to the continuation of the LOC and his work was being hampered in the US.

The plea was opposed by CBI advocate Rajdipa Behura who said the investigation was going on and if Rishi is allowed to go to the US and he does not return, the probe will be stalled.

She said keeping in mind the magnitude of the offence, he cannot be allowed to leave the country as the probe was at an initial stage.

The CBI counsel also took a preliminary objection to the petition and said all the three FIRs in the matter were registered in Mumbai and the LOC was opened in Mumbai, so the appropriate court would be in Mumbai and not Delhi. She said the request to issue LOC was made to the Ministry of Home Affairs by an SP of CBI.

Rebutting the submission on the jurisdiction issue, Rishi's counsel said he was detained at the Delhi airport and the CBI director, who is the authorised person for issuing the LOC, sits in Delhi so the jurisdiction is here.

He said he was ready to cooperate in the investigation and would come to India as and when asked and he was not running away as his wife and parents reside here and he has two houses in Delhi and Gurgaon.

Rishi, in his plea, said he was detained at the IGI airport on his arrival on March 15 and was asked by the CBI to appear before it at Mumbai the next day.

He said details of the LOC have not been given to him, and due to the LOC, he has not been able to return to the US and such restrictions on his travel are wholly unwarranted and unjustified and in absolute violation of fundamental rights.

The March 4 FIR said that directors, chief finance officer and finance officer of Firestar International Ltd, Firestar Diamond International Pvt Ltd, other directors/ promoters, company officials and unknown public servants of Punjab National Bank entered into a criminal conspiracy, pursuant to which PNB, Mumbai was reportedly cheated to the tune of Rs 321.88 crore over the period 2013-17.

Billionaire Nirav Modi, his uncle Choksi and others are being investigated by multiple probe agencies after the scam came to light in January following a complaint by the PNB that they had allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.

The ED has registered the money laundering case against Modi, his firms and others on the basis of a CBI FIR.