Indian fugitive billionaire Nirav Modi’s assets seized in London, New York

Authorities say they taken hold of some US$87 million worth of property, overseas bank accounts and diamond-studded jewellery to pile pressure on suspect in ongoing fraud case

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 6:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 6:06pm

Indian authorities on Monday said they had seized assets of fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi worth some US$87 million, piling pressure on one of the main suspects in a US$1.8-billion fraud at a major state-run bank.

The seized assets included overseas bank accounts and diamond-studded jewellery to the tune of US$3.1 million that had been brought back to India from Hong Kong in 23 shipments, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said.

The jewellery had been shipped out after Indian federal police registered a case of fraud against Modi in January.

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“The international cooperation has borne fruit,” the ED said in a statement. “This has resulted in (the) seizure and provisional attachment of jewellery, bank accounts and immovable properties worth US$87 million in India as well as four foreign jurisdictions.”

The list of seized assets include a London property worth about US$7.8 million and two others in New York valued at US$29 million.

Modi, last seen in Britain, fled India in February after authorities accused him of defrauding the Punjab National Bank.

Modi and his uncle and business partner Mehul Choksi, also a diamond merchant, are accused of illegally diverting loans from the bank to foreign-based companies. Choksi is in Antigua.

Modi, 47, had luxury stores in several major cities and boasted celebrity customers including actresses Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet and Priyanka Chopra.

Before the case, Forbes had estimated his worth at US$1.73 billion, placing him 85th on India’s rich list. He has now been removed from the ranking.

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In February and March, the ED seized Modi’s farmhouse, high-end antique jewellery, watches and rare paintings.

Modi is not the only Indian billionaire facing heat from the authorities.

Vijay Mallya, a business tycoon who owned a Formula One team, left India in 2016 after authorities launched money-laundering charges against him.

He was subsequently arrested in Britain and released on bail as he battles extradition, living in a sprawling US$15 million mansion in southeast England.