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

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.


London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism

Updated 20 min 58 sec ago

London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism

  • Moonshot CVE employs 40 people working in 15 languages, including English, French and Arabic, on 76 projects in 28 countries, with clients ranging from governments to technology firms

LONDON: Vidhya Ramalingam believes it’s always possible to change, even for people deeply involved in the murky online world of extremism.

Her company Moonshot CVE has the ambitious aim of trying to get anyone tempted by violence back on the straight and narrow.

Over the last four years, the London-based startup has grown quietly but not anonymously, if a recent partnership deal with Facebook is anything to go by.

US national Ramalingam and the firm’s co-founder Ross Frenett previously worked as researchers into extremism and believe radical groups are often one step ahead when it comes to technology.

“There was a lot of recognition that terrorists were using the internet in creative ways, that they were reaching young audiences, that they were able to innovate,” she told AFP in an interview.

“Yet those of us that were trying to counter them simply were moving too slowly and had too many constraints to actually replicate those methods for counter-terrorism purposes.”

That led to the idea of a technology startup able to keep up with and fight against all forms of violent extremism to nationalists and even “incels.” But greater visibility has forced the company to take more security measures because of the sensitive nature of its work — and the potential for violence from the people it tracks.

The address of Moonshot CVE’s London offices is kept secret and most of its staff have no visible online presence.

Just to get into its premises in a nondescript building in the British capital, visitors have to pass through heavy armor-plated doors and a security check.

“We take precautions,” said Ramalingam. “We work on high-risk issues and we try and put as much into the public domain as possible.”

The startup’s name refers to the act of launching a rocket to the moon — and gives an indication of its stellar ambition. The CVE stands for countering violent extremism.

It employs 40 people working in 15 languages, including English, French and Arabic, on 76 projects in 28 countries, with clients ranging from governments to technology firms.

One project is a collaboration with the Canadian government against the far-right. Another works with the UN on online extremist content in Asia.

The company has also had a partnership for several years with Google, using online advertising to target people looking up violent extremism on the net.

The Facebook contract involves Moonshot analizing how effective the social network could be to “deradicalize” users looking up extremist content.