A Gujarat court on Thursday declared fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi as a "proclaimed absconder" in a Rs 52 crore customs duty evasion case filed in March and ordered him to appear in court on November 15.
A public notification issued to various Maharashtra and Gujarat newspapers, and sent to government and police departments, referred to Nirav Modi as a proclaimed absconder under Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code that could make it difficult for him to secure an anticipatory bail.
In Surat, Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) B.H. Kapadia accepting an August 8 plea by the Customs Department asked the diamantaire, who is also the prime accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case, to appear before the court next Thursday.
Deputy Customs Commissioner R.K. Tiwary had filed the August petition against Nirav Modi and his firms -- Firestar Diamond International Pvt Ltd, Firestar International Pvt Ltd, and Radashir Jewellery Co Pvt Ltd -- that involved a dispute over "huge tax amount".
The diamond merchant and his firms had imported high-value rough and unpolished diamonds around 2014 and taken advantage of a government scheme allowing waiver of import duties if the raw materials were intended for export after processing in the Surat Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
However, after cutting and polishing, the firms allegedly sold those high-value stones worth around Rs 900 crore in the domestic markets and evaded customs duties of around Rs 52 crore, as detected by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Mumbai.
Apart from this, Nirav Modi also exported low-quality diamonds to various countries like Dubai, Hong Kong, Canada and the US, passing them off as processed high quality diamonds. Following this he was summoned by the court.
When he did not appear, an arrest warrant was issued against him on June 22.
However, all efforts by the department to execute the warrant failed as the diamond merchant was in hiding. His homes and offices were locked for long, and he had left the country, Public Prosecutor N.L. Sukhadwala told the court.
In its affidavit on October 9, the Customs Department said it had emailed copies of the arrest warrants to three IDs, and it was delivered to one of them, but was ignored by the user.
"Nirav Modi has knowledge about this warrant, yet he is absconding" trying to show that the warrant could not be executed, said CJM Kapadia, declaring the diamond merchant a "proclaimed absconder".
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine