With conflicting reports emerging regarding the real value of the gold, diamond and jewellery seized by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) during its countrywide raids on the properties of fugitive businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, The Sunday Guardian had filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act asking the agency to share the details, but the agency refused to do so.
The application, filed with the Ministry of Finance, had sought the details of the precious items, their value and the cash that the agency had claimed to seize from the businessmen in pursuance of the legal action taken against them. In its reply to the RTI query, the ED has said that it was exempted from sharing any such information. “The information sought by the applicant cannot be provided in view of the exemptions grounded under Section 24 read with the Second Schedule of the RTI Act, 2005,” it has said in its reply.
Section 24 of the Act says: “Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organisations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organisations to that Government: Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this Sub-Section.”
Earlier in February, after the news of the scam broke, the ED had stated that it had attached diamonds, jewellery, gold and assets worth Rs 6,400 crore during searches at 17 properties linked to billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat in connection with Rs 11,400-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.
According to the agency’s statement, which was also shared by it on social media, the valuation of the seized diamonds, gold and jewellery was Rs 5,100 crore, whereas other assets were of the value of Rs 1,300 core.
However, subsequent reports have claimed that the ED had “erroneously” calculated the value and wrongly arrived at the figures, with some reports claiming that an independent valuation of the gems and jewellery seized from Mehul Choksi-owned Hyderabad Gems SEZ Ltd has pegged its value at about Rs 103 crore, which is less than 3% of the value of Rs 3,840 crore declared in the firm’s books.
“It is clear that the ED went overboard while declaring the value of the items and hence is unwilling to share the real value of the goods that it has seized from Modi and Choksi. They should have waited for an independent auditing and valuation of the goods before declaring their seizure rather than go by what was written in the books maintained by the defaulter duo,” said a senior lawyer, who deals with cases related to Prevention of Money Laundering Act.