Nirav Modi: Meet the Man at the Centre of Rs 11,000 Cr PNB Fraud

Modi and his companies are allegedly at the centre of a $1.77 billion fraud detected at Punjab National Bank Ltd.

Updated
India
4 min read
State-owned lender Punjab National Bank (PNB) is at the centre of a $1.8 billion fraud – one of the largest to be detected across the Indian banking sector.
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Jewellery designer Nirav Modi, who boasts celebrity clientele across the globe, has been accused of being at the centre of a fraud at Punjab National Bank that is estimated to be worth $1.77 billion (Rs 11,000 crore approx).

The fraud is believed to be the largest of its kind to be detected across the Indian banking sector, and according to reports as of 15 February, Nirav Modi has left the country even before an FIR could be registered.

The ‘Nirav Modi’ brand boasts 10 namesake boutiques across the world. Out of these, two are in the US, two in India, two in Hong Kong and one is in Beijing. From Priyanka Chopra, who was the brand ambassador of his brand to Kate Winslet, who he dressed up in the 2016 Oscars, Modi’s jewellery has amassed a large fan base since he first launched his brand in 1990.

Priyanka Chopra was named the Brand Ambassador for ‘NIRAV MODI’ in Jan, 2017.
Priyanka Chopra was named the Brand Ambassador for ‘NIRAV MODI’ in Jan, 2017.
(Photo courtesy: Twitter/@PriyankaDailyFC)

In fact, of late celebrities have been great promoters for Modi’s brand, right up until he was swept up in the midst of a multi-billion dollar fraud, which could extend to other lenders, reports Bloomberg. But who is Nirav Modi and how has his brand managed to grow so expansively?

"Third-Gen Diamantaire From Antwerp”

As reported by BloombergQuint, a 2016 article in Mint suggests Nirav Modi is 45 years old and dropped out of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

On his website, the diamentere says he was brought up in Antwerp. The Belgian city, that is known as the diamond capital of the world, is also home to a significant Indian population. “I am a third-generation diamantaire from Antwerp where my father still runs a diamond business,” Modi writes on the site.

From Firestar Diamond to ‘NIRAV MODI’

In an interview published on Niravmodi.com, he says: “I started Firestar Diamond in 1990, which is present across the value chain from the sourcing and manufacturing of rough diamonds as well as cutting and polishing of diamonds to the designing and manufacturing of fine jewellery. Firestar provided me the expertise to create the brand ‘NIRAV MODI.’”

Did Nirav Modi set up Firestar Diamond in 1990 or 1999?
Did Nirav Modi set up Firestar Diamond in 1990 or 1999?
(Photo Courtesy: Niravmodi.com Screengrab)

However, a quick glance at the Firestar Diamond International Private Ltd official website shows it was set up in 1999.

Did Nirav Modi set up Firestar Diamond in 1990 or 1999?
Did Nirav Modi set up Firestar Diamond in 1990 or 1999?
(Photo Courtesy: Firestar Diamond Screengrab)

On his website, Modi says the ‘NIRAV MODI’ brand began to draw global attention when the brand’s ‘Golconda Lotus Necklace’ was featured on the Christie’s auction catalogue cover. “This made us the only Indian brand to be placed in the company of Harry Winston, Van Cleef and Arpels and Cartier to name a few,” the post adds.

The Glam Factor

After Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra was named the brand ambassador for the brand in January 2017, she was engaged in promoting the brand – the most popular of these promotions being an ad with actor Siddharth Malhotra. Actor and supermodel Lisa Haydon has also been featured on several of his billboard and print ads.

Kate Winslet sporting Nirav Modi designs for the Oscars. 
Kate Winslet sporting Nirav Modi designs for the Oscars. 
(Photo courtesy: NIRAV MODI website)

Hollywood’s A-listers like Kate Winslet, Dakota Johnson and Taraji P Henson have been spotted walked the red carpet, wearing his creations. The Times of India lists an instance of Modi’s attempt to woo the media – he reportedly shut down an entire store so an LA-based journalist could have a hands-on luxury shopping experience.

In a December 2017 interview, when asked by Indian Retailer to elaborate on his plans for the ‘NIRAV MODI’ brand, he said: “Over the next five years, we are looking at over 20 new boutiques across the globe”. His strategy, both in terms of the media and his aim to boost his celebrity clientele, seems to have worked – or at least, up until the news of his role in the $1.17 billion fraud broke.

(With inputs from the Nirav Modi website, ET, Bloomberg and Firstpost)

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