LONDON: Abhay Thipsay, a retired judge who has served in the Bombay and Allahabad high courts, told a London court via video link from India on Wednesday that the charges levelled by the CBI against jeweller Nirav Modi — which include criminal conspiracy, cheating and dishonestly inducting delivery of property — would not stand up under Indian law.
“Unless someone is deceived there can be no cheating under Indian law. Deception is an essential ingredient of an offence of cheating. If no one was deceived in issuing LoUs there is no question of a corporate body being deceived. The authority given to officials of the bank to issue LoUs cannot be said to be property and they cannot be said to be entrusted with property and therefore there cannot be a criminal breach of trust,” said Thipsay, brother of chess grandmaster Pravin Thipsay, who granted bail to actor Salman Khan in 2015.
The CBI and ED, too, were watching the third day of the trial at the Westminster magistrates’ court via link from India.
The court also heard testimony from former CEO of jewellery maker Chaumet, Thierry Fritsch, appearing via video link from France, who said that he “was totally amazed and impressed” by the quality of Nirav Modi’s craftmanship. “It was the best I have ever seen in my life. It was outstanding and this is why I accepted to join the Nirav Modi advisory board. His ambition was to establish the first international brand of high quality from India,” he said.
“It was a disaster it closed from a jewellery point of view. The luxury business is a combination of business and artistic skills and Nirav was perfect — he had both. His micro-setting of small diamonds was the very best in world. I have no reason to doubt his integrity — it was a big surprise for me what happened because whatever he was doing, he had the support of the Indian state. He was very proud to be Indian.”
Fritsch opened the Nirav Modi boutiques internationally and “pushed the brand to be more international and little less Indian ethnic”. He said Nirav’s workshop in Surat was “like Formula One” with a “stock of beautiful diamonds”. “Nirav was planning towards an IPO as the need for cash in jewellery is big,” he added.
Nirav is accused of accused of obtaining unsanctioned loans worth £700 million (Rs 6,498 crore) at highly advantageous rates by means of LoUs (letters of undertaking) from Punjab National Bank (PNB) in conspiracy with PNB officials from 2011 until 2017. He is also accused of wrongly diverting the loans to pay off earlier LoUs and benefit companies that he controlled. He is alleged to have established shadow companies in Dubai and Hong Kong — fronted by dummy directors — which were used for the circular rotation of low-quality jewellery at inflated values to give the impression of being exporters, but they were in fact receiving the proceeds of the PNB fraud.
The Crown Prosecution Service submitted a further 250 pages of evidence, including bank statements, even though the last date for serving of evidence was May 5. Nirav’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery QC, objected, but district judge Samuel Mark Goozée decided to allow it. Montgomery will be given time to respond, but it will further delay the hearing.