The Enforcement Directorate (ED), on October 17, 2018, seized assets worth over Rs 218 crores, including diamonds and flats abroad, in the nearly Rs 13,000-crore loan fraud case probe, the agency said. It said three provisional orders under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) were issued by the central investigative agency’s zonal office in Mumbai, for attachment of the properties in India and abroad.
The beneficiaries of these assets put under attachment, it said, are absconding diamond jeweler Mehul Choksi, Mihir Bhansali, a close aide and US-based executive of main accused in the case Nirav Modi and a company named AP Gems and Jewellery Park linked to Choksi. The total value of the attached and seized assets is Rs 218.46 crores, the ED said.
The attached properties include a Rs 51-crore flat of Bhansali in a foreign country and the agency said it was purchased by him and his wife, jointly. It was not immediately clear as to which country this asset is based in. “Bhansali is a close confidante of Nirav Modi and a beneficiary of the scam. He was actively involved in the diversion of funds, received from PNB’s LoU’s (letters of undertaking),” the ED said, in a statement.
Similarly, a villa valued at Rs 27 crores of Choksi, in an undisclosed country, has also been attached. A 2,10,000-sq ft building, on a 2.5-acre land in Hyderabad’s posh Banjara Hills, has been attached and the agency said it is in the name of AP Gems and Jewellery Park. The ED said Coksi holds 89 per cent of shares in this firm, by way of a ‘convoluted structure and overseas entity’. It added that a flat worth Rs 1.70 crores in Trump Towers in Mumbai, in the name of Choksi’s daughter, has been also attached. “For purchase of this flat, Rs 1.7 crores was transferred by Choksi to the Belgian bank account of his daughter and the money was again brought to India, for making payment to the builder,” the ED charged.
Also, diamonds worth Rs 18.76 crores, belonging to the Firestar Group of Nirav Modi, were seized as part of the latest order,it said. It said it is getting letters rogatory or judicial requests issued, to formalise the overseas attachments, with the help of their foreign counterparts. The total value of attachments in this case, with this latest order, stand at Rs 4,488 crores now, it said.
The ED is probing this case along with the CBI, where it is alleged that Nirav Modi and Choksi defrauded the Brady House branch of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) in Mumbai, to the tune of over Rs 13,000 crores, in alleged connivance with officials. While Choksi has been last reported to be in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the Interpol (global police) has recently issued a red corner notice against Bhansali in this case.