PNB fraud: ED seeks permission to search Nirav Modi house, NBW against Mehul Choksi
Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday moved a special court in Mumbai seeking a non-bailable warrant against Gitanjali Gems Ltd’s promoter Mehul Choksi, a key accused in the alleged Rs12,700 crore PNB fraud.
It also moved another court seeking permission to search the south Mumbai residence of billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi, a co-accused in the PNB fraud. “We issued three summons to Choksi, he neither responded to those summons nor appeared before the agency,” special ED prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar told the court for the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Mumbai.
On 27 February, the agency had moved the court seeking a non-bailable warrant against Nirav Modi. Judge M.S. Azmi is likely to pass orders on both the pleas on Saturday. The ED on Thursday also petitioned the special CBI court in Mumbai for permission to conduct searches at Nirav Modi’s residence in Samudra Mahal building in South Mumbai.
Venegaonkar told CBI judge S.R. Tamboli that the CBI has searched the residence and sealed it. “We (ED) need permission to search his residence,” the lawyer said. The CBI had not searched three cupboards in the house, and the ED may be allowed to conduct a joint inspection of these cupboards with the CBI, the lawyer said.
The CBI court is likely to pass an order on 3 March. Meanwhile, judge Tamboli on Thursday remanded PNB’s internal chief auditor M.K. Sharma in CBI custody till 13 March. Sharma was arrested on Wednesday. A scale-IV officer, he was responsible for auditing the systems and practises of the bank’s Brady House branch—from where letters of undertaking (LoUs) were issued to Modi’s firms—and report the deficiencies to the zonal audit office, the CBI told the court.
Accusing Sharma of conniving with others, the CBI told the court that he failed to point out issuance of illegal LoUs which resulted in a loss of Rs6,498 crore to the bank, the agency said.
Following the registration of FIR against Nirav Modi, his companies and Choksi, the CBI has so far arrested Vipul Ambani, president (finance) of Modi’s Firestar Diamond, Kavita Mankikar (executive assistant and authorised signatory of Diamond R Us, Stellar Diamond, Solar Exports, Arjun Patil (senior executive, Firestar group) and Rajesh Jindal, the then head of the Brady House branch of PNB, among others.