The enforcement directorate (ED) is set to move a special court in Mumbai to seek permission for “immediate confiscation” of about Rs 7,000 crore assets of designer diamond jeweller Nirav Modi under the recently promulgated Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance.
The agency, empowered by the government, will seek an official declaration to categorise Nirav Modi as a “fugitive” based on its prosecution complaint (charge sheet) filed before a special court in Mumbai last week under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
On May 24, ED had filed its first charge sheet in the over $2 billion PNB fraud case involving diamantaire Nirav Modi and his associates stating that over Rs 6,400 crore of bank funds were allegedly laundered abroad to dummy companies by him and others.
A total of 24 accused have been listed in the charge sheet, filed under section 45 of the PMLA, including Nirav Modi, his father, brother Neeshal Modi, sister Purvi Modi, brother-in-law Mayank Mehta and the designer jewellers’ firms – Solar Exports, Stellar Diamonds and Diamonds R Us.
The special court is expected to take cognisance of the 12,000-page charge sheet on Monday and the counsel for the agency will subsequently seek its permission to invoke the provisions of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance against Modi and immediately begin the procedure to confiscate all the assets “of and linked to” Modi in India and abroad, a senior official said.
A court-issued non-bailable warrant is already pending against Modi and ED has also moved the Interpol to get a global arrest warrant issued against him, sometime back. The agency will initiate the same action against absconding liquor baron Vijay Mallya, against whom enforcement directorate and CBI had filed their respective charge sheets last year.
It is expected, the official said, assets worth Rs 7,000 crore could be confiscated in the money laundering and the PNB fraud corruption case against Nirav Modi, under the stringent fugitive offenders ordinance.
The central probe agency had recently begun the work to bring together the existing cases of high-value fugitives and bank loan defaulters for getting them notified under the new legislation.
As per the existing process of law under the PMLA, ED could only confiscate the assets once the trial in a case finishes, which usually takes a long time of many years.
The ordinance is aimed at deterring economic offenders from evading the process of law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
The government brought the ordinance last month as “there have been instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings,” the government said.
The rationale behind the law, the government had said, was the absence of such offenders from Indian courts, which hampers investigation and wastes court time and undermines the rule of law. “The existing civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem,” it had said.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 12 but couldn’t be taken up due to logjam in Parliament over different issues. With Parliament being adjourned sine die, an ordinance was proposed. The cabinet on April 21 approved the ordinance and the President gave his assent to promulgation of the same day.
The ordinance makes provisions for special courts under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender.
(With inputs from PTI)