Mumbai, Feb 15 (IANS) A day after a massive $1.8 billion fraud was unearthed in a PNB branch here, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday launched a nationwide raid on the offices, showrooms and workshops of billionaire diamond trader Nirav Modi.
ED teams swooped down and carried out simultaneous raids on Modi’s offices, showrooms and diamond workshops in Mumbai, Surat (Gujarat) and New Delhi.
According to sources, unspecified quantity of stocks of gold, diamond and other precious stones worth several hundred crores of rupees have been seized during the raids, besides incriminating documents, computer discs and other materials.
ED officials landed at Firestar Diamond Pvt Ltd. head office in Bharat Diamond Bourse, in Bandra Kurla Complex, Modi’s private office at Kohinoor City in Kurla West, his showroom and boutique at Itts House in Fort, south Mumbai and a workshop in the Peninsula Business Park in Lower Parel.
In Gujarat, six diamond workshops were raided in Surat SEZ at Sachin town and an office in Belgium Towers on Ring Road, the hub of diamond jewellery trade.
Two diamond jewellery boutiques of Modi in New Delhi – in Chanakyapuri and Defence Colony – were also raided.
The multi-pronged action came a day after the Punjab National Bank admitted to unearthing a fraud of Rs 11,515 crore involving Modi’s companies and certain other accounts with the bank’s flagship branch (Brady House Branch) in Mumbai and its second largest lending window in India.
At least 10 bank employees have been suspended but it is not clear whether anybody from the crucial PNB Credit Approval Committee or its Board of Directors figure among them.
The fraud, which includes money-laundering among others, concerns the Firestar Diamonds group in which the CBI last week booked Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal Modi and their maternal uncle Mehul Choksi.
It followed a complaint lodged by PNB on January 29 pertaining to an alleged cheating case of Rs 280 crore perpetrated by these four in 2011, but all the accused had already flown out of India on various dates to different locations worldwide.
Modi, along with other co-accused in the fraud, is absconding from the country and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had already issued a Look Out Circular against them on Janaury 31.
It is learnt that Modi – whose operations are spread across Europe, the US, Middle East and Far East besides India – has written to PNB and other banks that he would return their outstandings.
The latest case — which involves a sum considerably higher than the Vijay Mallya loan default of around Rs 9,000 crore to Indian banks — comes at a time when the Indian banking system is already grappling with swelling non-performing assets.