The Enforcement Directorate (ED) searched the Mumbai residence of diamond merchant Nirav Modi as raids continued for the fifth day in connection with the agency’s money laundering probe in the Rs 11,400-crore alleged fraud at the Punjab National Bank (PNB). Official sources said ED sleuths arrived at Modi’s Samudra Mahal bungalow in Worli in south Mumbai and searched the premises. The central probe agency also conducted searches at 34 other locations in various cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Thane, Kolkata, Delhi, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Surat, in connection with its probe.
The agency has seized diamonds, gold jewellery and other precious stones worth Rs 5,694 crore till now in the case even as it has summoned Modi and his relative Mehul Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali Gems, later this week. Sources said the ED was looking at collecting all the financial documents — personal and official — of Modi, Choksi and their businesses in order to take the probe forward. “A number of computer peripherals, hard drives and documents have been seized since the ED raids began on February 15. The seized items are being scrutinised,” a senior official said.
ED Director Karnal Singh has flown down to Mumbai to review the anti-money laundering investigations, which are being conducted by a special team of the agency. The ED is also moving to attach at least two dozen immovable properties of Modi, Choksi and their concerns under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED and the Income Tax department have zeroed in on about 200 dummy or shell companies in India and abroad that were being used to route or receive funds as part of the alleged fraud. It is suspected that the shell firms were being used by the accused to launder money and create benami assets in the form of land, gold and precious stones, which is now being probed by the tax department.
Modi, Choksi and others are being investigated by multiple probe agencies after it recently came to light, following a complaint by the PNB, that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank. The CBI and the ED have registered two FIRs each in the case.