New Delhi: A day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seized nine luxury cars belonging to jeweller Nirav Modi, it froze Rs30 crore in bank accounts and shares worth Rs13.86 crore held by him on Friday.
The agency confirmed it had acted on a tip-off, following which it also “recovered a huge quantity of imported watches stacked in 176 steel almirahs, 158 corrugated boxes and 60 plastic containers".
Modi and Gitanjali Gems managing director Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the ED, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as the income tax (I-T) department for allegedly defrauding Punjab National Bank (PNB) of Rs11,400 crore.
Friday’s searches and recoveries come just a day after the ED seized a fleet of luxury vehicles, including a Rolls Royce Ghost, two Mercedes Benz GL Class cars, one Porsche Panamera, three Honda cars and one Toyota Fortuner. In addition to this, the agency confirmed that it had also frozen mutual funds and shares worth Rs94.52 crore belonging to the Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi groups.
On Thursday, the IT department attached Choksi-helmed Gitanjali Group’s SEZ (special economic zone) property worth over Rs1,200 crore in Hyderabad. Till now, the department has attached a total of 141 bank accounts and fixed deposits of the group.
On Wednesday, CBI seized Modi’s Alibaug farmhouse. “The farmhouse spanned 1.5 acres, its market value is Rs32 crore and was bought in 2004. The farmhouse was registered in Nirav Modi’s name," a senior CBI official said on condition of anonymity.
The ED and CBI sprang into action after PNB lodged the first complaint on 29 January.
On 15 February, the ED searched 17 premises belonging to Modi across Delhi, Mumbai, Surat and Hyderabad and seized Rs5,100 crore in gold and diamond jewellery. Soon after, on 19 February, the ED searched 26 locations in India connected to Modi and Choksi and raised the value of seizures to Rs5,600 crore.
“As the probe widens and more searches are conducted, more assets belonging to the accused will be attached under the money laundering act," an official familiar with the developments said on condition of anonymity.
Former investigation officials, however, said that despite the extent and book value of the seizures, it would be a long time before the banks could recover their money.
“It is one thing for the agencies to be seizing the properties and valuables. But there is a huge time lag between the agencies making the recoveries and banks getting the money back. This process does not happen overnight and takes a few years at least," said a former CBI official, who did not wish to be identified.
CBI, which has arrested 12 officials across PNB, the Nirav Modi group and Gitanjali group so far, said that interrogation of the arrested persons was underway.