A first under FEO Act: Court nod for confiscation of Nirav’s assets
A special court on Monday ordered the confiscation of the properties of diamantaire Nirav Modi, the main accused in the ₹23,780-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud, under the Fugitive Economic Offenders’ (FEO) Act, 2018.
The confiscation order against Nirav, who is lodged at a London prison while his extradition proceedings are pending, is the first under the two-year-old act.
Special judge VC Barde ordered for the confiscation of the properties within a month, but exempted assets mortgaged and hypothecated with PNB and its consortium, Andhra Bank and Oriental Bank of India.
Barde’s order will allow the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to confiscate properties of Modi, after which the money will be deposited with the Central government.
The order also sees that the banks will be at liberty to file their claims with ED and tribunal authorities for their rights over properties.
ED had listed properties, valued at ₹1,396.07 crore, which it claimed was purchased or owned by Nirav using proceeds of crime, for confiscation.
However, in the order passed on Monday, the court has also made specific mention on the paintings seized by the income tax (I-T) department. The court has directed ED to attach the paintings within a month and proceed to confiscate them.
Nirav was declared FEO under the new law on December 5, 2019, after which the court began the process towards confiscation of his properties. The court refused to permit Nirav to intervene in the process, but allowed banks to be heard.
While declaring Nirav as FEO, Barde had observed that Nirav left the country under suspicious circumstances to “dodge the penal consequences of the acts he has done or committed while in India till the year 2017”.
“It can be gathered that as on date when the respondent left the country, that is on January 1, 2018, he was in know of the fact of due dates of payments (to the bank) which was November 25, 2018, and left the country therefore in suspicion circumstances,” observed the court in the order passed on Thursday.
Nirav had contended that he could not return to India as he was arrested in UK. They had also pleaded to keep the proceedings in abeyance. The court rejected their plea and noted that Modi was arrested by the UK police on March 19, 2019, after a long time subsequent to the filing of ED’s application under the FEO Act. The court held that there was ample time for him to return to India before his arrest in London.