By SM.16 Feb, 2018
NEW DELHI: The CBI today contacted Interpol asking for help to arrest celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, who is being investigated in connection with a massive bank scam. Nirav Modi and his associates are accused of getting Punjab National Bank (PNB) officials to facilitate huge loans using fake guarantees, at the cost of Rs. 11,300 crore in public money. The passports of Nirav Modi and his business associate Mehul Choksi have been suspended and could be cancelled if they do not return to India within four weeks. The foreign ministry said it doesn"t know where the jewellery designer is, but he was reportedly traced to a hotel in New York.
Raids on Nirav Modi will continue until investigators can seize enough wealth to cover the amount involved in the PNB swindle, sources have said. In searches at 17 properties in multiple cities yesterday, the Enforcement Directorate has found diamonds, jewellery and gold worth Rs. 5,100 crore.
The raids followed PNB"s complaint that its officials at a branch in Mumbai had illegally steered around Rs. 11,300 crore in fraudulent loans to companies mostly controlled by Nirav Modi.
Based on PNB"s complaint, the CBI filed a formal case for Rs. 280 crore fraud on January 31 against Nirav Modi, his wife, brother Nishal and uncle Mehul Choksi, who controls Gitanjali Jewellers.
Earlier this week, India"s second largest government bank told the CBI that the amount was closer to a staggering Rs. 11,300 crore.
Nirav Modi and the others left India in the first week of January, long before the CBI filed the case. The agency put out a lookout notice against the four on February 3 or 4.
Nirav Modi"s exit from the country has fueled political sparring with opposition parties like the Congress drawing comparisons with Vijay Mallya"s flight out of India in the middle of attempts to recover billions in unpaid loans from him.
The Congress accused PM Modi of helping "Chhota Modi" escape the country though he had been aware of a scam since 2016, when a whistleblower wrote to him on Mehul Choksi and warned that he would leave the country like Mallya.
The jeweller, whose designs have been worn by stars in India as well as abroad, was recently seen in a group photo in Davos with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The government called the Congress charge "shameful" and declared that "no one will be spared, no matter how big".
PNB has suspended 17 officials for committing fraud to benefit Nirav Modi and other clients. According to a Reuters exclusive, a Right To Information reply shows state-run banks have reported 8,670 "loan fraud" cases totaling over Rs. 600 billion rupees over the last five financial years up to March 31, 2017.