New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sought a special court’s permission to seize and sell assets of absconding jewellers Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance.
The agency filed an application under Section 12 of the ordinance at the Prevention of Money Laundering court in Mumbai on Wednesday to confiscate their properties in India, the UK and the United Arab Emirates. ED has also asked the court to declare Modi and Choksi as fugitives.
The uncle-nephew duo are being probed by various agencies after a ₹ 14,356 crore fraud at Punjab National Bank came to light in February. Modi, whose celebrity clients included actors Kate Winslet and Priyanka Chopra, raised loans from overseas branches of Indian banks by fraudulently obtaining guarantees from a Mumbai PNB branch over several years.
Both Modi and Choksi will now be required to appear before the PMLA court within the next six weeks, failing which they will be declared as fugitives by the court.
Additionally, under the ordinance, their assets in India and abroad can now be confiscated and be sold after valuation to meet creditors’ claims.
While Modi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal declined to comment, Mehul Choksi’s counsel Sanjay Abbot denied any knowledge of the developments.
ED has already provisionally attached assets such as luxury cars, watches and jewellery worth approximately ₹ 5,100 crore.
The investigating agency filed its first charge sheet against Modi in May.
ED’s move comes less than two weeks after Interpol issued a red corner notice (RCN) against Modi, his brother Neeshal Modi and close aide Subhash Parab, who was an executive with the Nirav Modi group.
The other investigating agency—Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)—has however, not yet sent an extradition request against Modi to the ministry of external affairs, despite the existing RCN.
“An extradition request can happen when his whereabouts are known. As per the RCN, when Modi is located, the police of that particular country will detain him for up to 36 hours, within which they will consult with CBI. If CBI responds, he will remain in custody and if not, he will be granted bail after 36 hours. However, if the will of that particular government is strong, they can also deport him," said a person familiar with the developments.
Mehul Choksi’s RCN request to Interpol by both agencies is still under process.