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In 2010, Gitanjali promoter Mehul Choksi’s Hong Kong-based companies, Aston Luxury Group and Crown Aim Limited, invested in a London-based company called Alfred Terry Limited. Business Standard had reported earlier that Aston Luxury and Crown Aim were sharing the same office building and staff services with Aura Gems and Sunshine Gems. Both Aura Gems and Sunshine Gems have been named in the complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as having received millions of dollars within a space of few days in February, on the basis of fraudulent Letter of Undertakings (LoUs) issued by Punjab National Bank officials, allegedly in conspiracy with diamond tycoon Nirav Modi. Business Standard had sent facsimiles to the offices of the company secretaries, but has not received a response till the time of publication. Their responses will be published when received.
Documents available with British regulators shows that Aston Luxury was the biggest shareholder of Alfred Terry till 2013, when the process to dissolve the company was initiated. It held 80 per cent of the 10,000 shares in the company in 2012. By 2013, the Aston Luxury was the sole shareholder in the company, with an enhanced holding of 4,58,000, acquired for almost half a million pounds. This money was routed from Choksi’s Aston Luxury Group but it never filed its financial statements with the regulator there. Surprisingly, in the very year that this amount was pumped into Alfred Terry, Choksi’s representatives filed an application to wind up the company. The directors of Alfred Terry were two men – Yogesh Jain and Nishit Dinesh Mehta. Documents show that Jain had shown two addresses – one at an apartment at Bamboo Mansions in the Kowloon area Hong Kong and other at Essex in London.
A few months before the acquisition was completed by Aston Luxury, Alfred Terry is shown as owing close to 1.4 million GBP to various companies owned by Choksi, including the India-based Gitanjali Gems, Gitanjali Export Corporation and Hong Kong-based Aston Luxury. Moreover, goods worth almost 1 million GBP were shown as purchased during the last few months of 2011 and first half of 2012 from Gitanjali Gems and Hong Kong based Crown Aim. But once the acquisition was complete, no further ‘purchases of any goods’ were made by Alfred Terry from any of Choksi’s India- and Hong Kong-based companies. Within a few months of reporting these multi-million pound transactions, Alfred Terry filed an application with British regulators to wind up its operations. It is unclear whether these payments were eventually routed to Choksi’s other companies. Nirav Modi, the Indian diamond tycoon accused of cheating Indian banks of over a billion dollars, ran a jewellery store in London’s chic Mayfair, which is reported to have been opened sometime in 2016. Choksi’s Gitanjali Gems, meanwhile, has been active in the United Kingdom for a much longer time. In 2010, it had commissioned a brand valuation report from a UK-based firm for its brands – Nakshatra, Gili and D’Damas and Asmi. These brands were valued at Rs 15 billion. It had also raised funds from the London Stock Exchange through Global Depository Receipts (GDRs) at that time.
Indian investigators are currently investigating over 200 shell companies including Sunshine Gems and Aura Gems allegedly used by Nirav Modi and Gitanjali Gems promoter Mehul Choksi to siphon off bank loans. Investigators suspect that money taken as loans from Indian banks on Nirav Modi’s behest were eventually funneled into Choksi’s companies across the world. With links emerging between these suspected shell firms and companies directly owned by Gitanjali Gems, investigators could well end up in London and other British territories in their global hunt to crack the money trail.