PNB Scam: Nirav Modi left India with family on January 1

Mumbai: It is yet another case of the stable being locked after the horse has bolted. Last time, it was Vijay Mallya who was allowed to scoot. This time it is diamond czar Nirav Modi. Curiously, he fled the country on January 1, much before the CBI received a complaint from the Punjab National Bank on January 29 about the Rs 280-crore fraud.

By an uncanny coincidence, his brother Nishal, a Belgian citizen, also left the country on January 1, while wife Ami, a US citizen, and business partner Mehul Choksi, the Indian promoter of Gitanjali jewellery chain, departed on January 6. So, the CBI was merely going through the motions when it issued a look out circular against all the four after registering the first FIR against them.

Nirav Modi is believed to be in Switzerland, according to the Press Trust of India. The opposition has alleged that Nirav was allowed to leave the country; they have also shared Nirav’s group snap with PM while he was in Davos. Incidentally, a whistle-blower had written to the Prime Minister in 2016 and warned him about Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi’s partner, comparing him to Vijay Mallya.

Sleuths are asking whether PNB insiders had a role in allowing Nirav to escape since the initial complaint of Rs 280 crore was filed on January 29 and exactly a fortnight later, on February 13, the disclosure about the Rs 11,000 crore ‘loot’ was made. It is being pointed out that the PNB could not have conducted a forensic audit in just a fortnight; also, the PNB has said that it first detected the fraudulent letter of understanding on January 16. Was the bank then sluggish in filing a complaint and unwittingly allowed Nirav to leave the country?

Such is the cockiness of the absconding diamond czar that he is still trying to strike a behind-the-scene deal by offering to pay back to the PNB 50 per cent of the ‘loot’ — loans to the tune of Rs 5000 crore. The rattled PNB, which has to account for at least half the money that has been siphoned off in its quarterly statement, is awaiting a formal offer. Incidentally, this offer has come after the Enforcement Directorate filed a case against him for the Rs 11,360 crore fraud.

Soon after news of Modi’s repayment offer broke, PNB’s managing director Sunil Mehta partly confirmed the development. Mehta, however, said that the offer was not “concrete”. “Modi has made [a] vague offer of repayment,” Mehta said, adding there is nothing “concrete” and that they are examining the proposal.

The diamond trader, who was described as India’s diamond king in a 2016 Forbes magazine article, told PNB he will raise the necessary money by selling his company Firestar Diamonds. Firestar Diamonds’s net worth is valued at over Rs 6,400 crores.

PRIYANKA LOOKS TO ANNUL PACT

Actress Priyanka Chopra, the global brand ambassador for Nirav Modi, is seeking legal opinion to terminate her contract now that the jeweller has been accused of committing a major banking fraud, her spokesperson said on Thursday. Amid revelations of the scam, there was speculation that Priyanka was suing the brand for non-payment of dues.

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