Now that every sleuthing agency in the country is going through Nirav Modi’s account books with a fine toothcomb, I think it best to make a clean breast of things before Punjab National Bank (PNB) sends its snoops to interrogate your humble columnist. Of course, my wife thinks it would be wildly exciting to be questioned in the NiMo scandal — “think of how envious the neighbours would be!” — but I’ve a reputation (however modest) to consider. It’s mindful of that that I confess to willfully soliciting from the diamantaire currently in disgrace for looting and scooting with PNB’s investor wealth.
Far away in Italy, in a small Sicilian village, is a family business where chocolatiers handmake chocolates in what is described as the Aztec tradition, grinding together cacao and cold sugar for the crunch. These are later infused with flavours that range from caramel to lemon and cinnamon, adding nuts or fruits to make up a confection very different from the creamy bites we all recognise. Hand-wrapped and placed in elegant boxes, these chocolates cost a small fortune, and NiMo claimed to enjoy sharing these with his business associates.
Artisanal, hand-crafted chocolates are expensive, as we all know. But here was something you wouldn’t find in duty free shops, or even in high street specialty chocolate stores, because as Nirav Modi assured me, the first time he shared a box, these had to be ordered in advance. He enjoyed holidaying in Italy, of course, but if I remember right, he mentioned having to fly in the chocolates on a regular basis “because the family likes them so much”.
If I’d left it at that one sinful box, all would have been well, but here comes the tricky part. The family — which tends to ignore most piles of chocolate at home — made a representation asking for more. When I demurred, saying I could hardly ask a global brand promoter to keep us supplied in chocolates, my wife said, “It’s not as if we’re asking him for diamonds.” We might not have been seeking out baubles, but there’s nothing Modi liked more than surprising you with them. He would ask you to hold out your palm before casually dropping “the world’s most flawless ruby”, or “the world’s largest emerald” on to it. So, what was a box of chocolates, or two, for a wide-eyed hack?
The first time I reminded him that he’d volunteered to share his Italian chocolate booty with us, he took the trouble to find my address and had not one but two boxes sent home. At a subsequent meeting, he said he had carried a box of chocolates especially for us, but damn if someone else hadn’t pinched it. Ever since that box of chocolates went astray, we never received any more, not even when my wife brazenly requested them when we met at his promotional launches. Maybe that’s when he was running out of money, or had decided to use the LOUs for things other than wasteful titbits that pandered to the palate.
At any rate, should PNB think us guilty of actively lobbying from Mr Modi what he clearly could not afford to pay for from his own money, I am willing to settle the account for three boxes of chocolates, even paying for the fourth that was never actually delivered to us. I don’t know the procurement price of the chocolates, but Rs 11,400 should cover it. That would then leave only the zeros following that for Mr Modi to account for.