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Bank loan default: ED attaches Rs. 172cr assets of diamond firm

ED attached assets worth Rs. 172 crore of a diamond firm in connection with its money laundering probe in a major bank default case involving Rs. 6,800 crore.

Sources in the central probe agency said the zonal office of the agency issued orders for the seizure of both movable and immovable properties of the firm, identified as Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery Limited, under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

While the firm has its registered office in the diamond city of Surat in Gujarat, it is headquartered in Mumbai.

As per data, of the total Rs. 6,800 crore of debt and loans, Winsome owes Rs. 4,680 crore to a consortium of lenders headed by Standard Chartered Bank. Its associate firm Forever Precious Diamonds and Jewellery owes another Rs. 2,121.82 crore to a set of banks led by PNB.

Once a top diamond firm, Winsome, promoted by Jatin Mehta, is being probed both by the Enforcement Directorate and CBI.

Its troubles started in January 2013, when 13 of its UAE-based distributors controlled by a Jordanian national failed to pay Rs. 4,760 crore to the company, according to its 2012-13 annual report.

Following this, four foreign banks led by Standard Chartered, encashed the bank guarantees worth Rs. 4,000 crore.

As the troubles mounted and the company failed to service its debt, many banks got the company and promoter Mehta declared wilful defaulters as forensic audits showed the firm had allegedly siphoned off funds.

The case, like that of the Rs. 9,000 crore alleged bank loan default by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, is being monitored at the top level including the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.

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