Sleuths scan shell firms

New Delhi: At least 200 shell firms and "benami" assets have come under the scanner of the investigative agencies that are probing the Rs 11,400-crore alleged fraud at Punjab National Bank, involving diamond czar Nirav Modi, his relative and business partner Mehul Choksi and others.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which continued its searches against Modi, Choksi and their companies for the fourth day on Sunday and seized diamonds and gold worth Rs 20 crore, is also moving to attach at least two dozen immovable properties under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED on Sunday raided at least 45 premises, including jewellery showrooms and workshops

"As many as 29 properties - of Modi, his family members and companies - that have been provisionally attached by the income tax department, are being assessed by the ED under PMLA. A few more assets will be attached soon under the anti-money laundering law," a senior ED official said.

He added that the ED and the I-T department had zeroed in on about 200 dummy or shell companies in the country and abroad that were being used to route or receive funds as part of the alleged fraud.

It is suspected that the shell firms were being used by the accused to launder money and create benami assets in the form of land, gold and precious stones, which is now being probed by the tax department. Both the ED and the IT department have formed special teams to investigate the case, sources said.

The ED has seized diamonds, gold jewellery and other precious stones worth Rs 5,694 crore till now. PTI


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