The Central Bureau of Investigation has asked Interpol to help locate billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi, his wife Ami Modi, brother Nishal Modi and uncle Mehul Choksi, PTI reported on Friday.
The CBI has requested the international agency to issue a diffusion notice – less formal than an Interpol notice – that can be used to request the arrest or location of a person. The CBI said it was confident of finding Modi’s location by Friday.
The CBI also filed a fresh FIR against Choksi and Gitanjali Gems, the company he promoted, PTI quoted officials as saying. The FIR is based on a complaint that the Punjab National Bank filed. In the new FIR, it has mentioned 143 Letters of Understanding – bank guarantees issued for overseas import payments – and 224 foreign letters of credit. The agency, in its FIR of January 31, had mentioned 150 fraudulent Letters of Understanding.
The CBI said there are three main companies named in the FIR and they have 36 subsidiaries. Out of these 36 companies, 17 are in Mumbai, one in Hyderabad and the rest are based abroad. The companies in India are being investigated today, the CBI added.
The CBI on Friday also reportedly conducted searches at 20 properties belonging to Gitanjali Group and other directors of the accused companies in six cities, ANI reported.
The CBI is examining four officials of the Punjab National Bank, ANI reported.
Enforcement Directorate continues raid
The Enforcement Directorate on Friday also continued its search operations at various properties linked to Modi. “The Enforcement Directorate seized jewellery, gold, diamond, precious metal and stones at stock price of Rs 5,100 crore in Nirav Modi case yesterday [Thursday],” the agency said in a statement. “Independent valuation has been started.”
Modi and Choksi were summoned under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and asked to appear before the agency within a week’s time, PTI reported.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs, acting on the Enforcement Directorate’s suggestion, has suspended the validity of the passports Nirav Modi and Choksi with immediate effect for a period of four weeks.
The ministry said that it had asked them to respond within a week and explain why their passports should not be impounded or revoked. “If they fail to respond within the stipulated time it will be assumed that they have no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation,” the ministry said.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at the this stage the investigating agencies are not aware about Modi’s location. “I can say with confidence that this gentleman is not in touch with any of our officials,” Kumar told reporters during a press conference on Friday evening.
‘A failure of internal controls’: RBI
The Reserve Bank of India on Friday denied reports that claimed it had directed the Punjab National Bank to meet its commitments under the Letters of Undertaking provided to other banks.
“It is case of operational risk arising on account of delinquent behaviour by one or more employees of the bank and failure of internal controls,” the central bank said in a statement. “RBI has already undertaken supervisory assessment of control systems in PNB and will take appropriate supervisory action.”
The Income Tax Department also booked Nirav Modi under the new Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, for alleged possession of illegal assets overseas, PTI quoted unidentified officials as saying.
The Income Tax Department also provisionally attached 29 properties and 105 bank accounts of Nirav Modi, his family and firms, PTI reported.
The family reportedly left India in the first week of January, just days before the Punjab National Bank filed a first information report against Modi for alleged fraud. The agency said Modi, who has an Indian passport, and his brother Nishal, a Belgian citizen, left the country on January 1.
Modi’s wife Ami, a United States citizen, left on January 6, while his uncle and business partner Choksi left on January 4, PTI reported.
Meanwhile, Punjab National Bank suspended eight more of its employees, taking the number of suspended employees to 18, ANI reported. Among those suspended are officers at general manager-level.