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article imageLondon, New York property of Indian celebrity jeweller seized

By AFP     Oct 1, 2018 in Crime

Indian authorities Monday said they have seized assets of fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi worth some $87 million, piling pressure on one of the main suspects in a $1.8-billion fraud at a major state-run bank.

The seized assets included overseas bank accounts and diamond studded jewellery to the tune of $3.1 million that has been brought back to India from Hong Kong in 23 shipments, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said.

The jewellery had been shipped out after Indian federal police registered a case of fraud against Modi in January.

"The international cooperation has borne fruit," the ED said in a statement.

"This has resulted in (the) seizure and provisional attachment of jewellery, bank accounts and immovable properties worth $87 million in India as well as four foreign jurisdictions."

Nirav Modi had luxury stores in several major cities
Nirav Modi had luxury stores in several major cities
Sajjad HUSSAIN, AFP/File

The list of seized assets include a London property worth about $7.8 million and two others in New York valued at $29 million.

Modi, last seen in Britain, fled India in February after authorities accused him of defrauding the Punjab National Bank.

Modi and his uncle and business partner Mehul Choksi, also a diamond merchant, are accused of illegally diverting loans from the bank to foreign-based companies. Choksi is in Antigua.

Modi, 47, had luxury stores in several major cities and boasted celebrity customers including actresses Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet and Priyanka Chopra.

Before the case, Forbes had estimated his worth at $1.73 billion, placing him 85th on India's rich list. He has now been removed from the ranking.

In February and March, the ED seized Modi's farmhouse, high-end antique jewellery, watches and rare paintings.

Modi is not the only Indian billionaire facing heat from the authorities.

Vijay Mallya, a business tycoon who owned a Formula One team, left India in 2016 after authorities launched money-laundering charges against him.

He was subsequently arrested in Britain and released on bail as he battles extradition, living in a sprawling $15 million (13 million euros) mansion in southeast England.

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