Govt moves NCLT to attach properties owned by Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi in India, abroad

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Mumbai: The government on Friday moved the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to attach all the properties owned by Nirav Modi and Gitanjali Gems Ltd promoter Mehul Choksi as well as to attach all assets of around 114 companies owned or controlled by them.

On Friday, the ministry of corporate affairs sought the court’s intervention to attach all the properties owned by Nirav Modi, his wife Ami and brother Nishaal as well as uncle Mehul Choksi’s assets in India as well as abroad.

“The central government has formed an opinion that there are many black sheep than it appears and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) will investigate into the matter for which the government wants to attach all the properties owned by these four people along with their company assets,” argued the joint legal director who was representing the government in the tribunal. “We want to attach all the assets of 114 companies related to the accused as well.”

The government official further argued that they are seeking ex-parte relief in extraordinary circumstances because most assets owned by Modi family and Choksi are in liquid form and if the government doesn’t act now, the investigation can’t be taken forward without NCLT’s permission.

“These four people are prima-facie beneficiaries of the fraud purported on their behest where more people from the Punjab National Bank (PNB) are also involved,” argued the counsel, who was representing the central government in the tribunal. “We want to freeze and attach all the properties from alienating as well as creating any third party interest on any of the property.”

Various government agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), are looking into the matter. Also, the corporate affairs ministry is seeking the help of the Central Board of Direct Tax (CBDT) to ascertain the assets of the prime accused and other related parties.

“We are relying on an internal vigilance report prepared by the PNB and on the basis of that we have zeroed on these companies as well as properties owned or controlled by accused,” argued the senior official representing the ministry. “Government intends to attach the properties of accused in other countries as well through Indian missions abroad.”

According to Zulfiqar Memon, managing partner of law firm MZM Legal, “In the present case, the investigation agencies will look at each and every company, all their directors, their accounts as well as every transaction that companies have conducted. Currently, the case is at a very nascent stage and the details in the public domain are just the tip of the iceberg.”

The government, in the backdrop of a major failure of non-banking financial institutions, the phenomenon of vanishing companies, plantation companies, and the recent stock market scam, had decided to set up SFIO, a multi-disciplinary organization to investigate corporate frauds. The SFIO has been functioning since 2003. From the time of its inception, SFIO has investigated 311 cases of corporate fraud or white collar crimes, and in the year 2017, it carried out 87 investigations.livemint