Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who had fled the country after the Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank fraud surfaced, may have evaded the Indian authorities so far but the Income Tax authorities will be able to recover nearly Rs 55 crore from the auction of paintings that were seized from his premises.
Saffronart's Spring Live Auction in Mumbai raised Rs 54.84 Crore for the Government of India as the money raised from the auction will go to the Tax Recovery Office of the Income Tax department in Mumbai.
A masterpiece by VS Gaitonde sold for Rs 25.2 crores. It was among the paintings seized from Nirav Modi's premises during raids after the PNB fraud was discovered. The striking, deep red, untitled work by the eminent modernist artist, painted in 1973, became the fourth most expensive painting ever sold by the artist.
Another iconic Raja Ravi Varma artwork, which was also among the paintings seized sold for Rs 16.1 crore. The historically significant oil painting with its masterful realism became second highest price achieved at auction for an artwork by the artist.
The auction marks the first time in India that a professional auction house has been appointed by the Tax Recovery Officer of the Income Tax department to conduct an art auction on their behalf.
With this auction, several other agencies may also move to make monetary recoveries by auctioning seized material.
Among other artworks seized from Nirav Modi's premises by the Income Tax department include works by FN Souza, Akbar Padamsee's figurative work rendered in a grey palette, titled Grey Nude, Jagdish Swaminathan's vivid red work from his Bird, Mountain, Tree series and Rameshwar Broota's A Child, the Youth, now Man, 2003. All these paintings were also auctioned after the courts allowed the authorities to auction the artworks.
Saffronart CEO and Co-Founder Dinesh Vazirani said, "We are committed to working with the government and its agencies in the future, and offering any assistance as experts and thought leaders in the field of art and auctions."
Nirav Modi, 48, and his uncle Mehul Choksi are the prime accused in the Punjab National Bank scam involving fake guarantees in the name of the state-run lender to secure loans overseas. Nirav Modi denies the charges and claims they are politically motivated. The opposition has been attacking the government, alleging that Nirav Modi was allowed to flee the country.
Nirav Modi owned 173 paintings worth nearly Rs 58 crores and 11 vehicles including a Rolls Royce, Porche and Mercedes Benz cars , the Enforcement Directorate said in a statement after the jeweller's arrest in London. The Enforcement Directorate is also likely to auction these seized valuables to make monetary recoveries.
Earlier this month, authorities in Maharashtra's Alibaug used dynamite to demolish Modi's sprawling sea-facing bungalow, estimated to cost over Rs 100 crore as the 33,000 square foot luxurious bungalow is illegally build, violated coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms and the state's regulations as well.