Auction of PNB fraud accused Nirav Modi's assets deferred to March 5

Boys with Lemons, 1935, by Amrita Sher-Gil is part of the Saffronart Spring live auction on behalf of the ED
An auction of art, cars, sculptures, and valuables of diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, who is accused of bank fraud, which was set to be held on Thursday, has been postponed to March 5.

The delay comes under instructions from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) because a writ petition has been filed by Modi’s camp to halt the sale, said a source aware of the auction and its related proceedings.

The auction is being conducted by Saffronart on behalf of the ED, and was expected to generate around Rs 40 crore in proceeds. A separate ‘Spring Online Auction’ will take place as scheduled on March 3 and 4 as originally planned, said Dinesh Vazirani, chief executive officer of SaffronArt.

Legal experts said a delay was possible only if a stay had been issued and typically it takes much longer than just a day or two to vacate a stay order. In addition, no writ petition was filed as recently as Tuesday, the lawyer confirmed. This is not the first time that Modi has tried to delay an auction. Last year, days after the Income Tax Department was authorised to auction paintings owned by Modi and his shell firm Camelot Enterprises, Modi sent a legal notice to the authorities stating that the auction was unlawful.  Saffronart was in charge of that auction as well.

The two sales will feature a total of 112 lots seized from Nirav Modi’s Mumbai home, which include critically acclaimed works by master artists. 

Leading that list are an untitled 1972 work by VS Gaitonde, whose high reserve is set at Rs 9 crore; a 1935 Amrita Sher-Gil titled Boys with Lemons, with a high reserve of Rs 18 crore; and, a 1972 MF Husain work titled Battle of Ganga and Jamuna: Mahabharata 12, whose high reserve is also pegged at Rs 18 crore.

Other highlights include a 10-year-old Rolls Royce Ghost on sale for Rs 95 lakh, and a diamond-encrusted Patek Phillipe sports watch for Rs 70 lakh.

Nirav Modi came under scrutiny when he was accused of perpetuating a fraud that ran into billions of dollars and was orchestrated by using letters of undertaking, or LoUs, obtained from state-owned Punjab National Bank.

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