Who owns the 68 paintings? High Court to I-T department
The ED had provisionally attached the artworks, as a part of the investigation into the ₹13,500-crore Punjab National Bank fraud.
The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday directed the income tax (I-T) department to submit information on the ownership of the 68 paintings belonging to diamantaire Nirav Modi’s firm, Camolet Enterprises Private Limited, 55 of which were sold for ₹54.84 crore at an auction on Tuesday.
Camelot approached the High Court on Monday, challenging the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court’s last week order, which allowed the I-T department to auction selective artworks (68 of 173) purportedly belonging to Nirav Modi to recover the arrears. The ED had provisionally attached the artworks, as a part of the investigation into the ₹13,500-crore Punjab National Bank fraud.
Camelot’s lawyer Fereshte Sethna said the I-T department had not even provided the assessment orders, which eventually culminated in the recovery proceedings, and thus deprived the firm of the statutory right to appeal against them. She said the department fixed I-T dues of the firm at ₹45 crore for the financial year 2018-19, although the time for filing returns is yet to lapse. She also claimed the firm did not fully own the 68 paintings.
Responding to the petition, additional solicitor general Anil Singh said the firm has moved the HC at the eleventh hour, even though public notices for auction of the paintings were published long ago. He submitted that Nirav Modi was 99.99% stakeholder in Camelot, and of the two other directors on its board, one is in jail and the other absconding.
Singh claimed the department has complied with all procedural requirements of serving the assessment orders and subsequent notices to the firm, but nobody challenged the orders or objected to the subsequent recovery proceedings.
On the ownership claim, Singh said the auctioneer had put up the photographs of the paintings on their website, but nobody claimed any right or interest in them.
A division bench of justice Akil Kureshi and justice Sarang Kotwal has directed the I-T department to hand over the copies of the firm’s assessment orders, on the basis of which the recovery proceedings were initiated and the paintings were sold. The next hearing will be held on April 1.