Following the attachment of an over 12-acre farmhouse plot in Panvel, Punjab National Bank and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have attached 84 acres of land in a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Nashik owned by fugitive diamond trader Mehul Choksi’s firm Gitanjali Gems Ltd.
The 84 acres comprise 42 plots bought by Nashik Multi Services SEZ Ltd, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed by Gitanjali Gems, in Igatpuri taluka of Nashik district. More than 10 years since the SPV was formed, no SEZ has come up there, officials say.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi are wanted by the ED and CBI for allegedly defrauding PNB of Rs 13,400 cr in collusion with some of its employees.
Confirming that the plots were attached a few months ago, a senior PNB official said, “Land parcels along with all buildings and constructions have been attached at Nashik SEZ owned by Nashik Multi Services SEZ Ltd, promoted by Choksi through Gitanjali Gems Ltd.”
The plots are scattered in Mundhegaon grampanchayat. For instance, while one plot is just 100 metres from Mumbai-Nashik highway and 50 metres from railway tracks, another is located between Mundhegaon-Balwant Nagar Road and an industrial plant.
Villagers in the neighbouring area said they were not aware of any SEZ coming up in the area. Manaji Hambir, a resident of Balwant Nagar, said, “The plots were purchased by agents but no one knows for whom they were bought.”
Daulat Gatir, who was sarpanch of Mundhegaon for two terms, said, “The land purchase drive began in 2007-2008. Three to four persons were involved in the deals then. Only when some bank and ED officials came for a check a few months ago we learnt that the fugitive diamond merchant and his firm own the plots. Since then no one came for any check again.”
Igatpuri tahsildar Vandana Kharmale said, “No SEZ has been developed in the area. Even people in the locality do not have any knowledge about such an SEZ. As I am new here, further details can be provided only by the local Talathi or circle officer.”
The local Talathi, Bhagyashree Dhaitadak, said, “A few months ago, the land records were sought by PNB and ED officials and we shared the records with them. However, no SEZ has been developed on the land, and there’s no sign board mentioning such a project.”
A revenue department official privy to the findings said, “The 7/12 land extract records show that around five acres of land near the highway is in the name of Mehul Choksi. More information regarding the remaining land parcels requires a thorough check. Now all the land records are submitted to the tahsildar office for digitisation.”