Nirav Modi’s servers shut down, data deleted after income tax search in 2017
The shutting down of the servers prevented agencies from acquiring the digital evidenceUpdated: Mar 21, 2019 23:59 IST
Crucial digital evidence was destroyed a year before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began its probe into diamantaire Nirav Modi, accused of defrauding Punjab National Bank of ₹13,500 crore. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) said in its charge sheet that the servers of Modi’s company Firestar Diamond Inc were shut down after an income tax search in January 2017 and the agency has a witness confirming this. The shutting down of the servers prevented agencies from acquiring the digital evidence contained in email exchanges and online records, states the charge sheet.
In January 2017, a year before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a first information report against Nirav Modi, the income tax department had conducted searches in Firestar Diamond Inc’s India office. At the time, the witness was a manager in the company’s IT department.
Soon after, Nirav Modi ordered the servers used by the company to be shut down. The order was communicated to the witness by Mihir Bhansali, a top executive in Nirav Modi’s employ. Bhansali told the witness to shut down this server as well as an email server in Dubai – referred to as Panemail – that was used by Modi and top executives. Bhansali did not allow any backups to be made. The witness told ED that while they were backing up the data, the server was shut down remotely from the UAE.
Bhansali had asked the IT department to then set up a new, secret server, which hosted the URL cricketnow.live. “[On the server] emails were automatically deleted after one week. No forwarding or downloading access was allowed. The user IDs were not created in individual names,” the witness told the ED.