Billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi, the kingpin of the country’s biggest-ever bank scam, informed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday that he would be unable to depose before the investigating agency in the Rs 11,400-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, officials said.
The ED, in turn, served fresh summons against him.
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Officials said that Modi had replied to the ED's investigating officer (IO), who is probing the role of the diamond merchant and his uncle Mehul Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali Gems, in the Rs 11,400-crore alleged fraud at the Punjab National Bank (PNB), and cited the temporary suspension of his passport and pending business issues as reasons for his non-appearance.
Modi was summoned by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The sources said he had now been asked to join the investigation and appear before the central probe agency in Mumbai on February 26.
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Modi, it is understood, had sent an e-mail to the ED, stating that while his passport was temporarily suspended, he was also dealing with the recent developments and investigations, pertaining to the alleged bank fraud, against his businesses in the country and hence, he was unable to depose before the agency.
It maybe recalled that a few years back, liquor baron Vijay Mallya had cited the same reasons for not appearing before the ED and the agency had asked him to approach the nearest Indian embassy and get a travel document issued in order to return to the country.
Meanwhile, it is understood, that Choksi, who has been summoned by the ED for tomorrow, will also be issued a fresh summons if he fails to appear.
Earlier today, the ED said it has frozen shares, deposits and luxury cars worth over Rs 100 crore of the Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
Enforcement Directorate officials said they have frozen mutual funds and shares worth Rs 86.72 crore belonging to Choksi and his group and Rs 7.80 crore owned by the Modi group.
While the total value of these shares and mutual funds is Rs 94.52 crore, the costly four-wheelers are worth a few crores and hence the total seizure value stands to be over Rs 100 crore, the officials said.
The total seizure in the case is now Rs. 5,826 crore, which the agency has said is being independently valued.
Choksi is Modi's uncle and promoter of the Gitanjali Gems group and other jewellery brands.
The central probe agency also seized nine high-end cars belonging to Modi during the raids that were launched against him and Choksi on February 15 under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Meanwhile, the scam-hit PN, in response to Modi’s claims about the bank closing all recovery options, said it has followed lawful avenues to recover its dues.
In a regulatory filing, it also said it has enough assets and capital to meet any liabilities arising from the fraud. “We have followed lawful avenues available to us as per law to recover our dues,” PNB said.
Earlier this week, in a letter, Modi had alleged that PNB’s overzealousness had shut the doors on his ability to clear the dues. He had also said that the money he owed banks was less than Rs5,000 crore and not what was publicised. He had also blamed the bank and its “anxiety to recover dues immediately”, for destroying his brand and business and closing all options for a possible repayment of dues.