India seizes jeweler’s farmhouse, power plant after PNB fraud

Indian supporters of the Congress Party shout slogans as they burn effigy of billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi in New Delhi. Indian authorities said on Saturday they seized a farmhouse, a solar power plant and land belonging to the businessman. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018
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India seizes jeweler’s farmhouse, power plant after PNB fraud

MUMBAI: Indian authorities said on Saturday they seized a farmhouse, a solar power plant and land belonging to billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, at the center of an alleged $1.8 billion fraud against Punjab National Bank that has shaken confidence in state lenders.
Modi, who had a chain of boutique stores from New York to Beijing, and his uncle Mehul Choksi are both accused of perpetrating the biggest loan fraud in Indian banking history and are both out of the country.
India’s Enforcement Directorate, which fights financial crimes, said on Twitter it had taken possession of 21 properties belonging to Modi worth 5.24 billion rupees ($81 million) in the latest swoop in Mumbai and Pune, another city in western India.
Earlier in the week, the agency said it had seized luxury cars worth millions of rupees belonging to Modi and his firms in a case that has turned the spotlight again on India’s deep-seated corruption problem.
Modi and Choksi are accused of colluding with employees of Punjab National Bank, the country’s second-largest state lender, to fraudulently issue letters of undertaking over a seven year period which the businessmen used to obtain credit from overseas branches of Indian banks.
A lawyer for Modi has denied his client was involved in any fraud. Choksi’s firm, Gitanjali Gems, has also denied involvement in the alleged fraud.
At least a dozen people — six from the bank and six more from Modi’s and Choksi’s companies — have been arrested and the investigation is still continuing.
Separately, India’s federal police registered a case against a Delhi-based jeweller on a complaint of fraud filed by Oriental Bank of Commerce, another state-owned bank, a police source said.
The lender has alleged the firm, Dwarka Das Seth International, cheated the bank with the help of some of its officials, using Letters of Credit (LCs) — a banking instrument similar to those used by firms led by Modi and Choksi.
Reuters was unable to reach the Delhi firm as the phone numbers listed online did not work.


Filipino remittances from the Middle East down 15.3% in 2018

Updated 19 min 58 sec ago
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Filipino remittances from the Middle East down 15.3% in 2018

  • Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion previously
  • Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption

DUBAI: Money sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East went down 15.3 percent to $6.62 billion in 2018 from $7.81 billion a year earlier, latest government data shows.
Lower crude prices, which affected most OFW host countries in the region, the job nationalization schemes of Gulf states and a deployment ban last year of household service workers to Kuwait were the primary reasons for the decline, a reversal from the 3.4 percent remittance growth recorded in 2017.
A government study has noted that Saudi Arabia was the leading country of destination for OFWs, with more than a quarter of Filipinos being deployed there at any given time, together with the United Arab Emirates (15.3 percent), Kuwait (6.7 percent) and Qatar (5.5 percent).
Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion a year before; down 19.9 percent to $2.03 billion in the UAE from $2.54 billion in 2017; 14.5 percent lower in Kuwait to $689.61 million from $806.48 million and 9.2 percent down in Qatar to $1 billion in 2018, from $1.1 billion a year earlier.
The Philippine government issued a deployment ban for Kuwait early last year, and lasted for five months, after a string of reported deaths and abuses on Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
OFW remittances from Oman, which implemented a job nationalization program like that of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, dove 33.8 percent to $228.74 million in 2018 from $345.41 million a year before. In Bahrain, cash sent by Filipinos rose 2.2 percent to $234.14 million last year from $229.02 million previously.
Meanwhile, overall OFW remittances grew 3 percent year-on-year to $32.2 billion, the highest annual level to date.
“The growth in personal remittances during the year was driven by remittance inflows from land-based OFs with work contracts of one year or more and remittances from both sea-based and land-based OFs with work contracts of less than one year,” the Philippine central monetary authority said.
Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption and in 2018 accounted for 9.7 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.