HC permits auction of paintings seized from Nirav Modi

#dailynews60 : The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to stay the auction proceedings of some rare paintings seized by the Enforcement Directorate from the residence of fugitive diamond businessman Nirav Modi.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice B P Dharmadhikari and Justice N R Borkar was hearing a petition filed by the businessman’s son Rohin Modi, claiming that the paintings were owned by the Rohin Trust, of which he was a beneficiary, and not owned by Nirav Modi.

Rohin Modi’s counsel Amit Desai argued that the paintings cannot be construed as proceeds of crime and his client was not an accused in the case.

The Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) counsels Anil Singh and Hiten Venegaonkar, however, opposed the plea and argued that Rohin Modi, Nirav Modi and his wife were beneficiaries of the trust.

They further argued that the paintings were attached by ED in March 2019, and an advertisement for the auction was issued in January 2020.

The bench, after hearing arguments, noted that the petitioner (Rohin Modi) had approached the court at the “eleventh hour”.

“The Rohin Trust has not approached this court…neither have the other beneficiaries of the trust, Nirav Modi and his wife, approached this court. There is no attempt to justify late approach,” the bench said in its order.

“In this situation, we are not inclined to pass interim orders. The ED shall file its affidavit in response to the plea by March 23,” the court said.

The bench, however, directed the ED to deposit the auction proceeds in a separate bank account and not use the same until further orders.

Apart from the 15 paintings, several diamond watches, Hermes handbags and luxury cars such as Rolls Royce Ghost and Porsche Panamera S will be auctioned.

The paintings and other items were seized by ED from Nirav Modi’s houses after the agency registered a money laundering case against him and his uncle Mehul Choksi for allegedly defrauding Punjab National Bank of Rs 13,600 crore.