Documents accessed by Business Standard show owners of suspected Hong Kong-based shell companies are spread across the globe.
Documents accessed by Business Standard show some of the Hong Kong-based entities to which at least $45 million was paid in less than a week this month at the behest of Nirav Modi with the connivance of Punjab National Bank officials have owners spread across the globe.
The places in question range from Surat in India to Taipei in Taiwan to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong.
While much has been said about Modi and business associate Mehul Choksi in the multi-billion dollar fraud, there is little clarity on some of the entities to which these huge sums were paid by Hong Kong-based Indian banks.
These entities are under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation, in a global search to put together pieces of what is turning out to be the biggest financial scam in India’s corporate history.
A facsimile was sent to the offices of the company secretaries of these entities but no response was received till the time of publication. The responses of the individuals and entities will be published once received.
One of the companies is Aura Gems, from which Modi’s companies allegedly imported diamonds worth several million dollars. Though based in Hong Kong, this is owned by an Indian national named Shailesh Sonu Mehta. Documents show he operates the company from Dubai. His apartment is in a well-known residential area on the western side of the creek, in what is popularly known as Bur Dubai.
While Mehta is the sole shareholder in Aura, owning over 8.5 million shares, another man named Nareshkumar Divyeshkumar Gandhi is a director in the company. Gandhi is a Hong Kong national and currently at an apartment, LunaTowers, in the Kowloon district there. Aura Gems is located on the ninth floor of a building called Peninsula Square, a 10-minute drive from Gandhi’s residence.
Aura allegedly received millions of dollars from the Hong Kong branches of Allahabad Bank and Axis Bank, upon receiving dubious Letters of undertaking (LoUs) from an Indian branch of PNB. According to the CBI’s FIR, along with other Dubai-based companies, Aura received close to $32 million as payments for exporting ‘diamonds’ to Modi’s companies that included Solar Exports and Diamonds 4 US.
The second Hong Kong-based company in question that received money for exporting ‘diamonds’ to Modi’s India-based companies was Sino Traders. Documents show a Taiwanese national named Min Tung Li is the owner. Min, based in Taipei, held eight million shares in Sino Traders. The company was operating out of a building in central Hong Kong and its office was barely a kilometre from the branches of Axis and Allahabad Bank.
The LoUs on the basis of which over $28 million was paid to Sino Traders, along with other Dubai-based companies, were also issued by PNB this month. On February 9, an LoU of almost $4.5 million was issued to Allahabad Bank’s Hong Kong branch, to be paid to Sino Traders, listed as one of the “overseas exporters”, On February 12, two LoUs of a little more than $12 million were received by the same branch for payment to Sino.
On February 14, two LoUs of almost $12 million were received by Axis’ Hong Kong branch. In some of these transactions, both Aura Gems and Sino Traders were to receive the money for ‘exporting diamonds’ to Modi’s companies in India.
Documents also show a Hong Kong-based entity named Sunshine Gems, listed as one of the diamond exporters to Modi’s companies, can be traced back to the diamond hub of Surat in India. Although the company operates out of the seventh floor of a trade tower in Hong Kong’s commercial Kowloon district, its owner is a Gujarati named Mohandas Ashishkumar Lad, residing in the Keshav Nagar locality of Surat.
Lad is the sole owner of Sunshine Gems, with eight million shares. Sunshine is one of the youngest companies named in the complaint filed with the CBI. Records show it was incorporated in 2013 in Hong Kong. Sunshine, along with other companies, were made payments to the tune of a little over $28 million by the Hong Branches of Allahabad Bank and Axis Bank, after receiving LoUs from the Indian branch of PNB.