Mumbai court issues summons to Nirav Modi's siblings under fugitive act

34-nirav-modi Nirav Modi | Amey Mansabdar

A special court in Mumbai dealing with cases under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act on Saturday issued public summons to the sister and brother of absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi, the main accused in the $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud case, asking them to appear before it on September 25.

It said if Nirav's brother and sister fail to appear, their assets will be confiscated under the newly enacted Act that is aimed at curbing big ticket economic crimes.

The court of M.S. Azmi, also the special judge for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases in Mumbai, issued three public notices in leading dailies on Saturday, naming Nirav's sister Purvi Modi and brother Neeshal Modi as they have been "enumerated as an interested person" in an application made under the new Act by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the diamond merchant.

Nirav's siblings have been charged by the ED of having indulged in money laundering and subsequently, escaping from India as the alleged scam came to light.

The notice against Purvi and Neeshal show causes them to explain as to "why the properties mentioned in the application (filed by the ED earlier), in which you have pecuniary interest and/or otherwise, should not be confiscated under the said ordinance (now the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act)."

The court has asked Nirav's brother and sister to appear before it on September 25 at 11am, the same date on which Nirav has also been summoned by it under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.

The third public notice against Nirav asked him to depose on the same date and time as it said that he is accused in a money laundering case and "as you have left India and are refusing to come back to face trial in that case, you should be declared a fugitive under the above-mentioned ordinance (now the Act)."

Therefore, the judge said in the public declaration, "I issue notice to you (Nirav) to show cause as to why the said application for declaring you a fugitive should not be allowed and as to why the properties mentioned in the application, in which you have pecuniary interest and/or otherwise, should not be confiscated under the said ordinance (now the Act)."

"I, therefore, direct Nirav Deepak Modi to remain present before me... on or before September 25 at 11am, falling which the said application shall be proceeded with as per the ordinance/rules thereafter," the notice said.

The notice bears two addressees of Nirav—4, Grosvenor House, 2nd floor on Peddar Road and four flats in Samudra Mahal apartments on Dr Annie Besant Road—in Mumbai.

The same court had on July 25 issued the summons to Nirav after the ED made an application seeking to declare the designer diamond jeweller a 'fugitive economic offender'.

It had issued a similar notice of appearance under the fugitive law against Nirav's uncle and co-accused in the case Mehul Choksi and had asked him to appear before it the next day—on September 26.

The agency had moved the court seeking to declare the diamond traders as 'fugitive economic offenders' and to confiscate their assets worth Rs 3,500 crore in the case.

The Central probe agency, empowered to enforce the new law brought out by the Narendra Modi government to curb big economic crimes and check the escape of perpetrators from India, had filed two separate applications against Nirav and Choksi.

The ED, earlier, had moved a similar application against businessman Vijay Mallya in a Rs 9,000-crore bank loan fraud case and the court has summoned him for August 27.

In this case of Nirav and Choksi, the agency seeks to confiscate assets, both movable and immovable, including those located in the UK and the UAE.

The move has been made on the basis of the two PMLA charge-sheets filed by the agency against the two designer diamond jewellers on charges of alleged money laundering.

"Investigations have revealed that Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi have committed the offence of cheating against Punjab National Bank (PNB) in connivance with certain bank officials by fraudulently getting the LOUs/FLCs issued without following prescribed procedure and caused a wrongful loss to the bank.”

"They have further siphoned off the proceeds of crime so generated through layering through multiple dummy, related, connected entities in India and abroad," the agency had said in its application.

Nirav and Choksi are being investigated by the ED and the CBI after it was detected that they allegedly cheated PNB of more than Rs 13,400 crore with the purported involvement of a few of its employees.

The scam, which reportedly began in 2011, was detected in January this year, after which PNB officials reported it to the probe agencies.

Two criminal complaints were filed by the ED in these instances after taking cognisance of CBI FIRs.

Non-bailable warrants were issued against Nirav and Choksi, while an Interpol 'red corner' arrest warrant has been issued against Nirav on the request of the ED.

The ED had conducted 260 searches in this case across the country. The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act came into force from July 31.

Cases of frauds, cheque dishonour or loan default of over Rs 100 crore would come under the ambit of this ordinance.

The Narendra Modi government has said the ordinance offers necessary constitutional safeguards in terms of providing hearing to the accused person through counsel, allowing him time to file a reply, serving notice of summons to him, whether in India or abroad and appeal before the High Court.