An appellate tribunal against money laundering on Friday directed fugitive businessman Nirav Modi and others to not dispose of their 21 immovable properties, reported PTI. Modi is accused of defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore. He and his uncle Mehul Choksi are the main accused in the scam.
The Appellate Tribunal on Prevention of Money Laundering Act also issued notices to the Enforcement Directorate, Modi and others, on a plea filed by Punjab National Bank and United Bank of India consortium on December 10. The consortium has sought that “status quo” be maintained in relation to all the properties owned by Modi and others accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. The tribunal posted the matter for final hearing on December 10.
Modi is “not trustworthy” as he had fled the country and it was the banks’ right to recover the public money, said tribunal chairperson Justice Manmohan Singh. He observed that there was a strong prima facie case against Modi and the other accused.
“Under these circumstances, I direct that the respondent [Modi and others] shall maintain the status quo in relation to the said property and particularly Nirav Modi, Ami Nirav Modi [his wife] and other respondents shall not dispose of or create third party interest in respect of 21 immovable properties,” he said. “...I am of the view that the bank is entitle to receive the amount after sale proceeds.”
Earlier this week, the Enforcement Directorate attached assets worth Rs 637 crore of Modi and his family in India and four other countries.
Describing the public sector banks cheated by Modi as “victim parties”, Justice Singh said the accused could try to dispose of the movable and immovable properties he owned. “Their [banks’] money is a clean money, it must come to the banks,” he said. “Most of these are public sector banks. It is the public money.”
The fraud came to light in February when the Punjab National Bank informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that it had detected “fraudulent and unauthorised transactions” worth Rs 11,380 crore at a branch in South Mumbai. A few officials of the public sector bank had allegedly issued fraudulent Letters of Undertaking to Modi’s companies. Modi had already fled the country. The Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation are investigating the matter.