The Enforcement Directorate today searched the Mumbai residence of diamond merchant Nirav Modi and seized assets worth Rs 57.16 billion as raids continued for the fifth day in connection with the agency's money laundering probe in the alleged Rs 114 billion Punjab National Bank fraud.
Official sources said ED sleuths searched Modi's flat in the Samudra Mahal apartments in Worli. The central probe agency also conducted searches at 38 other locations in several cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Thane, Kolkata, Delhi, Jammu, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Surat. It seized fresh assets worth Rs 22 crore that include precious stones, cash and gold from the premises of Modi, his relative and business partner Mehul Choksi and others.
The agency has so far seized diamonds, gold jewellery and other precious stones worth Rs 57.16 billion in the case and summoned Modi and Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali Gems, to appear before it on February 23 at its Mubai zonal office. ED sources said the agency is also talking to senior PNB officials to ascertain how Letters of Understanding (LoUs) are issued and other bank operations done. It also obtained information from the whistleblower in the case who had said he had raised flags against Choksis' loan in 2013. "We are looking at securing the proceeds of crime. The ED will probe how much illicit wealth was created by the accused in the alleged fraud," a senior official said. It has also sought PNB's audit reports since 2011 from the RBI, they said.
The sources said the ED was looking at collecting all financial documents -- personal and official -- of Modi, Choksi and their businesses to take the probe forward and attach properties in the coming days. "A number of computer peripherals, hard drives and documents have been seized since the ED raids began on February 15. The seized items are being scrutinised," another official said. ED Director Karnal Singh also flew down to Mumbai today to review the anti-money laundering investigations, which are being conducted by a special team of the agency.
The ED is also moving to attach at least two dozen immovable properties of Modi, Choksi and their concerns under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED and the Income Tax department have zeroed in on about 200 dummy or shell companies in India and abroad that were being used to route or receive funds as part of the alleged fraud.
It is suspected that the shell firms were being used by the accused to launder money and create benami assets in the form of land, gold and precious stones, which is now being probed by the tax department. Modi, Choksi and others are being investigated by multiple probe agencies after it recently came to light, following a complaint by the PNB, that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of Rs 114 billion, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.
The CBI and the ED have registered two FIRs each to probe the case.