- Sources say Nirav Modi's staying with family at JW Marriott's Essex House
- Staff at the apartment said he and his wife were out, children were home
- Lots of people came here when news of the giant bank scam broke in India
Celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi, who left India just days before the CBI started investigating him in connection with a Rs. 11,300 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam, has been traced to an apartment in New York's Manhattan. Sources have told NDTV that he is staying in a suite at JW Marriott's Essex House, a short walk away from his luxe Madison Avenue jewellery retail store.
Yesterday, the government said his passport would be revoked and "no one, no matter how big, would be spared".
Nirav Modi, his family members and business partner Mehul Choksi are accused of getting billions in credit from banks overseas after using PNB officials in Mumbai to issue fraud guarantees.
The diamond billionaire left India on January 1 and was last seen in a group photo with Indian business leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Davos, taken on the sidelines of a summit on January 23.
NDTV accessed his upscale suite on the 36th floor, with a view of the Central Park, on Thursday afternoon. Staff at the apartment said Nirav Modi and his wife were out, only his children were home. "The news is only in India, he is safe in America right?" an employee questioned.
There was much activity at the apartment on Wednesday night, NDTV learnt, when multiple people gathered there around the same time the news of the giant bank scam broke in India. Hotel staff claimed to have seen the 48-year-old Nirav Modi, who is unusually reticent, well into the night. His wife Ami Modi was seen entering and exiting the building frequently during the day.
At the Madison Avenue showroom, employees gave this statement: "This matter has no affiliation, legal or otherwise with Firestar International Limited which is the flagship enterprise of Mr. Nirav Modi."
At the time of publishing this article, NDTV was waiting for a promised call from Nirav Modi's US management. NDTV has also reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and State Department and is waiting for a response.
The bank scam was revealed when a consortium of companies related to Nirav Modi asked for fresh guarantees for overseas credit last month. When the bank asked for 100 per cent cash guarantees in exchange for Letters of Undertaking, the companies allegedly said they never did that before. On investigating, the bank uncovered Letters of Undertaking issued illegally by officials who had since retired. Letters of Undertaking are bank guarantees for lenders.
On January 29, the bank complained to the CBI about a Rs. 280-crore fraud, officials said. The investigating agency filed an FIR or formal case two days later, against Nirav Modi, his brother, wife and Mehul Choksi.
The CBI learnt that all four had gone abroad and issued a look-out circular in the first week of February.
Earlier this week, PNB declared that the scam was far bigger and involved a swindle of over Rs 11,300 crore.