PNB fraud case: ED brings back Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi’s jewellery worth ₹1,350 crore from Hong Kong

PNB fraud case: ED brings back Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi’s jewellery worth ₹1,350 crore from Hong Kong

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The Enforcement Directorate has brought back to India over 2,300 kilogramme of polished diamonds, pearls and jewellery worth Rs 1,350 crore belonging to fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi from Hong Kong in relation with the Rs 13,000 crore PNB Bank scam.

According to the financial probe agency, 108 consignments from the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong entities of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi were brought back to Mumbai on Wednesday from Hong Kong.

ED officials say of the 108 packages, 32 belong to Nirav Modi and 76 belong to Mehul Choksi.

The agency claims that the valuables brought back to India were kept in the godown of a logistics firm in Hong Kong.

The two accused were planning to fly these consignments to Dubai from Hong Kong in 2018 while evading investigative agencies on their trail, the ED officials point out.

As per the ED, these consignments had been sent to Hong Kong from Dubai in early 2018 and the agency officials had received intelligence input about these valuables in July 2018. The agency was continuously engaged in discussion with various officials in Hong Kong to bring these valuables back to India.

Nirav Modi, 48, is in London jail while his uncle Mehul Choksi, 60, is hiding in Antigua. The extradition proceedings against both fugitives have been initiated by Indian investigative agencies.

Both are accused in a fraud involving fake guarantees in the name of state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) to secure overseas loans. Both the accused fled India in 2018, before the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) began investigations.

Both are being investigated by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

In an effort to get back some of what Nirav Modi owes banks, agencies auctioned much of his assets, including a Rolls Royce car, a never-before-auctioned painting by famous artist Amrita Sher-Gil and another work from artist MF Husain’s Mahabharata series, Hermès handbags and other luxury items.

Meanwhile, during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many Indians are pawning gold to secure loans, bankers and industry experts say, as banks are otherwise increasingly reluctant to regular lending due to fear of the loan souring.

With the surging rates of the yellow metal, more money is now available for gold loans, which are the easiest and quickest to be processed and disbursed.

The Reserve Bank of India stipulates  75 per cent of the value of  pawned gold can be lent.

Overall loan growth in India’s banking system has already been slowing down and is expected to hit a multi-decade low of 0 to 1 per cent in this fiscal due to the fallout from the pandemic, said credit rating agency Crisil.

According to the World Gold Council estimates, up to 25,000 tons of gold are lying in Indian households – with rural India accounting for 65 per cent.

In India, the yellow metal is currently trading at around Rs 46,900 per 10 gram.