Nirav Modi declared fugitive economic offender, hearing on confiscation of properties on Dec 10
Nirav Modi was arrested in London in March this year and is presently at the Wandsworth Prison fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering in the nearly $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB).Updated: Dec 05, 2019 13:08 IST
A special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court on Thursday declared jeweller Nirav Modi as a fugitive economic offender (FEO) under a new act enabling the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to begin confiscating his properties in India, the UK and UAE.
The court will now begin hearing on the list of Modi’s properties both in India and abroad that are to be confiscated from December 10.
Nirav Modi is the second person to be declared a fugitive under the FEO act after Vijay Mallya. Modi was arrested in London in March this year and is presently at the Wandsworth Prison fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering in the nearly $2 billion Punjab National Bank (PNB).
The plea seeking to declare Modi as a fugitive was filed in July last year. It was opposed by his lawyer Vijay Agrawal on various grounds but the objections were not considered.
The order comes a day after the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court issued a proclamation against him asking him to appear before the court within 30 days, starting from December 17.
The FEO act is aimed at deterring economic offenders from evading the law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. The law seeks to expedite the recovery of losses incurred by banks and other entities by confiscating the properties of the offender.
While seeking to declare Modi as a fugitive economic offender, ED had requested the court to issue an order for the confiscation of all properties belonging directly or indirectly to Modi in the country and abroad.
The agency, which investigates financial crimes, had also sought the declaration against Modi’s uncle Mehul Choksi. However, the plea against Choksi is still pending as the latter had approached Bombay High Court to stay the proceedings raising technical defects in ED’s application.
The plea of stay was rejected by the high court on Wednesday and now the court would begin hearing ED’s plea to declare Choksi as a fugitive.
ED stated that during the course of the investigation, more than 260 searches had been conducted across India leading to the seizure of gold, diamond, platinum, silver, precious and semiprecious stones, jewellery and watches belonging to Modi and Choksi and companies controlled by them.
“Bank accounts and shares belonging to Modi and Choksi and companies controlled by them were also frozen. Luxury cars and paintings were also seized,” said an ED officer.
Moreover, attachment orders of five properties were also issued against Modi and Choksi and their companies. The list of the properties has been submitted to the special PMLA court for the order of confiscation under the Fugitive Economic Offender Ordinance, 2018.
The agency has already filed charge sheets, called the prosecution complaints, against them in ED on May 24 and June 26 last year. Subsequently, the court issued non-bailable warrants against them.
ED had registered two cases of money laundering against Modi and Choksi on the basis of two first information reports (FIR) filed by CBI in January last year.
CBI had alleged that Modi and Choksi allegedly cheated PNB in connivance with certain bank officials by fraudulently getting Letters of Undertaking (LOUs) issued to their three firms without any collateral and without following prescribed procedure and caused a wrongful loss to the bank.