PNB fraud case: ED continues raids; Nirav Modi, Choksi summoned

PNB fraud caseMUMBAI: The ED today summoned billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi and his business partner and jewellery chain promoter Mehul Choksi in connection with its money laundering probe in the Rs 11,400-crore alleged fraud in Punjab National Bank, even as agency sleuths expanded their search operation in properties linked to the accused, officials said.

Modi and Choksi, who are believed to have fled the country in the first week of January, have been summoned under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and asked to appear before the agency within a week’s time. The notices were handed over to the directors of the firms of the two businessmen as they were not in the country, the officials said.

While Modi runs a jewellery brand chain under his name, Choksi is the promoter of Gitanjali Gems. The agency had also moved the external affairs ministry to revoke their passports, following which the government today suspended the travel documents temporarily.

Agency sleuths continued the search in some of 17 premises they had raided yesterday, and began fresh search today in some more properties linked to the accused.

“ED seized jewellery, gold, diamond, precious metal and stones at stock price of Rs 5,100 crore in Nirav Modi case yesterday. Independent valuation has been started,” the agency said in a statement today.

It registered a PMLA case against the two and others based on a CBI FIR, which was the result of a PNB complaint.

The agency is probing if the allegedly defrauded bank funds were laundered and these proceeds of crime subsequently used by the accused to create illegal assets and black money.

Modi, 46, a regular feature on the lists of rich and famous Indians since 2013, was booked by the CBI, along with wife, brother and Choksi on January 31, for allegedly cheating the state-run PNB to the tune of Rs 280 crore.

The bank subsequently sent two more complaints to the CBI on Tuesday, saying the scam was worth more than Rs 11,400 crore. A fresh FIR has been filed by the CBI today.

The CBI had earlier raided the residences of Modi, his brother, wife and Choksi, all partners of Diamond R US, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds and two bank officials — Gokulnath Shetty (now retired) and Manoj Kharat, who were also named in the FIR as accused.

“The public servants committed abuse of official position to cause pecuniary advantage to Diamond R US, Solar Exports, Stellar Diamonds and a wrongful loss of Rs 280.70 crore to Punjab National Bank during 2017,” the CBI FIR has alleged.

The jewellery designer is a citizen of the country but his brother Nishal and wife Ami are not Indian nationals. They left India between January 1 and 6, the CBI had said.-PTI

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