IT Dept auctions fugitive Nirav Modi's paintings for Rs 55 cr


March 26, 2019

MUMBAI: Fifty-five pieces of art belonging to fugitive economic offender Nirav Modi, presently in custody in London, were sold in auction on Tuesday by the IT Department for Rs 55 cr, a much higher price than estimated.

The diamond trader is wanted in connection with alleged Punjab National Bank frauds totalling Rs 13,000 cr in India. An absconding Nirav was arrested in the UK last week and is facing extradition for trial in India. He was arrested last Tuesday on the request of Indian authorities, who have asked for his extradition. He has been remanded in custody until 29 March. The Telegraph newspaper had reported him living in a $10.5m London flat earlier this month, which led to the arrest.

Punjab National Bank (PNB) was the main victim of Nirav's frauds. Since Nirav fled India in early 2018, authorities have seized his assets.

In the auction, several items were sold far above their estimated value. The sale was the first of its kind as paintings are not sold in auction to recover money.

A painting by Vasudeo S Gaitonde, a famous abstract painter, sold for $3.7m. Another iconic Raja Ravi Varma artwork sold for Rs 16.1 crore.

Nirav is one of India's richest men, worth an estimated $1.75bn, according to Forbes. He was born in a diamond trading family and launched his own brand in 2010, which grew and spread across the world. His diamonds were much in demand among even Hollywood celebs like Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts. Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra-Jonas promoted his brand in advertisements.

His assets were frozen after the allegations of bank fraud emerged last year. Nirav, 48, and his uncle Mehul Choksi are the prime accused in the massive Punjab National Bank fraud involving fake guarantees.

Nirav's sprawling sea-facing bungalow, estimated to cost over Rs. 100 cr, illegally built violating coastal regulations, in Maharashtra's Alibaug, was demolished early this month by authorities using dynamites.

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