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While asking the question to billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has given a week's time to explain why their passports shouldn't be revoked.
If it fails, the Passport issuing authority will go ahead with the revocation. On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the MEA has suspended validity of passports of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi with immediate effect for a period of four weeks.
"If they fail to respond within the stipulated time it will be assumed that they have no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation," the ministry said in a statement.
Announcing the suspension, the MEA statement said,"On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the passport issuing authority in the MEA has today suspended the validity of passports of Nirav Deepak Modi and Mehul Chinubhai Choksi with immediate effect for a period of four weeks u/s 10(A) of the Passports Act 1967."
They have been asked to respond within one week why their passports should not be impounded or revoked under Section 10 (3) (c) of the Passports Act 1967, it said.
Both Modi and Choksi left India last month.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED yesterday moved separate applications to the external affairs ministry seeking the revocation Nirav Modi's passport as well as that of his maternal uncle and his business partner Mehul Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali jewellery chain. Both are accused in the Rs 280 crore bank fraud case.
The Enforcement Directorate had conducted searches in several properties linked to Modi in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat Thursday, and seized diamond, jewellery and gold worth Rs 5,100 crore.
The raids came after the agency filed a Rs 280-crore money laundering case against Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal and business partner Mehul Choksi on Wednesday, following a complaint by Punjab National Bank.
The ED filed the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after going through a CBI FIR registered early this month. It is understood that the ED also went through the PNB complaint that was made out against Modi and others. The agency, they said, would probe if the allegedly defrauded bank funds were laundered and these proceeds of crime were subsequently used by the accused to create illegal assets and black money.
Modi (46), a regular feature on the lists of rich and famous Indians since 2013, was booked by the CBI, along with wife, brother and business partner Choksi on January 31, for allegedly cheating the state-run Punjab National Bank to the tune of Rs 280 crore. The bank has sent two more complaints to the CBI on Tuesday, saying the scam was worth more than Rs 11,400 crore.
The ED has enllarged its probe to look into the charge of fraud of Rs 11,400 crore, agency officials said.
The CBI also raided the residences of Modi, his brother, wife and Choksi, all partners of Diamond R US, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds and two bank officials -- Gokulnath Shetty (now retired) and Manoj Kharat, who were also named in the FIR as accused.
"The public servants committed abuse of official position to cause pecuniary advantage to Diamond R US, Solar Exports, Stellar Diamonds and a wrongful loss of Rs 280.70 crore to Punjab National Bank during 2017," the CBI FIR has alleged.
The bank had also alleged in the complaint that a fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertakings (LOU) took place on January 16, 2018 for and on behalf of the accused firms, which approached the bank and presented a set of import documents to the branch with a request to allow buyers credit for making payment to overseas suppliers.
The diamantaire is an India citizen but his brother Nishal and wife Ami are not Indian nationals.
(With agency inputs)