Nirav Modi: Billionaire’s art to be auctioned


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Sixty-eight pieces of art owned by Indian billionaire Nirav Modi are set to go under auction in the western city of Mumbai.

The Indian diamond trader, whose jewellery has been worn by the likes of actress Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, was arrested in the UK last week.

Mr Modi, 48, is wanted for his alleged role in India’s largest bank fraud, totalling some $2bn (£1.5bn).

Authorities hope to recover between $4.4m and $7.3m through the sale.

His collection includes rare pieces from celebrated Indian artists like Raja Ravi Varma and Vasudeo S Gaitonde.

The auctioneers anticipate that an oil-canvas painting by Mr Gaitonde, one of India’s most prominent abstract painters, will be the most coveted artwork up for sale.

One of his pieces – Untitled – was sold for $4.4m at a Mumbai auction in 2015, making it the most expensive Indian artwork ever sold.

Auctioneers believe that a painting by Mr Varma could also fetch up to $2.5m at Tuesday’s auction.

Punjab National Bank (PNB), India’s second-largest state-run bank, accuses Mr Modi of being one of the main suspects in a scam which defrauded it of $2bn.

Since Mr Modi fled India in early 2018, tax authorities have seized various assets, including lavish properties and some 170 pieces of expensive art.

Mr Modi has previously denied any wrongdoing. Police in London said he was arrested last Tuesday on the request of the Indian authorities, who have asked for his extradition.

He was refused bail and been remanded in custody until 29 March.

Mr Modi’s case was thrust back into the limelight after The Telegraph newspaper found him living in an $10.5m London flat earlier this month.

Within days, officials confirmed that UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had certified India’s extradition request, initially made last August.

Who is Nirav Modi?

Mr Modi is one of India’s richest men, worth an estimated $1.75bn, according to Forbes.

He was born into a diamond trading dynasty, but only launched his own eponymous brand back in 2010.

The brand grew quickly, and he soon had shops across India, as well as in New York, London and Hong Kong.

His diamond-encrusted designs were worn by stars including Kate Winslet, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Naomi Watts, while the Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra-Jonas appeared in advertisements for the brand.

The shops were raided and his assets frozen after the allegations emerged last year.


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