NEW DELHI: The passports of celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi and his business associate Mehul Choksi have been suspended as investigators look into a Rs. 11,300 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam. Their passports could be cancelled if they do not return to India within four weeks, or at least communicate with officials here. The CBI has also contacted the Interpol to track down Nirav Modi, who left the country on January 1, days before the CBI started investigating him over the swindle of billions in public money with help from PNB officials who issued fake guarantees for overseas bank credit. NDTV has traced the 48-year-old billionaire to a hotel in New York, not far from his Manhattan showroom. In searches at 17 Nirav Modi properties in multiple cities, the Enforcement Directorate has found diamonds, jewellery and gold worth Rs. 5,100 crore.
Here are the 10 latest developments in this big story:
1.Raids on Nirav Modi will continue until investigators can seize enough wealth to cover the amount involved in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) swindle, sources have told NDTV. This morning, teams of officials returned to the celebrity jeweller’s showroom and office in Mumbai. “Till now, we have found assets only half the fraud money. Our priority right now to recover assets worth at least equivalent to fraud amount,” an official told NDTV this morning.
2.The raids followed PNB’s complaint that it had been cheated of around Rs. 11,300 crore of taxpayer’s money by Nirav Modi, his family members and Mehul Choksi, who are accused of using fake guarantees to get credit from banks overseas.
3.The CBI filed a formal case charging four, Nirav Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal and Mehul Choksi on January 31, after PNB complained of fraud worth Rs. 280 crore.
4.Earlier this week, India’s second biggest government bank told the CBI that the amount was closer to a staggering Rs. 11,400 crore.
5.Nirav Modi and the others left India in the first week of January, long before the CBI filed the case. In the first week of February, deeper into the investigations, the investigating agency put out a lookout notice against the four.
6.Nirav Modi’s exit has fueled political sparring with opposition parties like the Congress drawing comparisons with Vijay Mallya’s flight out of the country in the middle of attempts to recover billions in unpaid loans from him.
7.The jeweller for stars in India and abroad was recently seen in a group photo in Davos with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
8.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 Nirav Modi’s uncle Mehul Choksi and warned that he would leave the country.
9.The government called the charge “shameful” and declared that “no one will be spared, no matter how big”. Nirav Modi’s passport will be revoked, said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
10.PNB told the stock exchange that its own officials at a single branch in Mumbai had helped Nirav Modi and others get credit without proper guarantees and in violation of rules. Taxpayers’ money had been illegally transferred abroad, the bank said.