Police arrest diamond firm director in Nepean House fraud
Six years after corporate tenants allegedly tried to take over the R300-cr heritage house in Malabar Hill from its owner, cops booked one of the four accused directors with forgery
The Malabar Hill police have arrested the director of a diamond trading company on the charge of forging documents to try and take over Nepean House in Malabar Hill from its owner, in collusion with three other company directors. On November 4, the police arrested Hemant Dayalal Bhatt, co-director of Firestar Diamond International Pvt Ltd, the firm in the name of which the bungalow which has a market value of Rs 300 crore was rented.
He was produced in Girgaum court where the judge remanded him in police custody till today. The cops are now investigating the main accused, city-based diamond merchant Neerav Modi. The duo allegedly made a fake agreement in a bid to capture the bungalow after renting it from its owner, a senior citizen.
“We have arrested Bhatt under sections 465 (forgery), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 452 (house trespass with preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) and 34 (acts done by several people for a common intention) of the IPC,” said Sanjay Naik, investigation officer.
According to the police, in 2002, the house which belonged to erstwhile governor of Bombay Sir Evan Nepean, was occupied by an 86-year-old Parsi woman, Najoo Bhiwandiwala. In 2007, she sold it to Surendra Agarwal, a top diamond businessman, who now lives in the house with his family.
But Bhiwandiwala and Agarwal came to know that Modi had forged some documents claiming that Bhiwandiwala had agreed that she would sell the house to him at a future date. Modi, in fact, had taken a part of the bungalow on leave-and-licence basis for five years. In June 2004, on the pretext of renovation, he moved antique goods and furniture worth of Rs 1 crore from the house, and claimed that he had handed over the moveable property to his maid Indu Monde.
Later, in her statements (copies with MiD DAY), Monde denied that Modi had given her any assets. It was also revealed that Modi used fake stamp papers (copy with MiD DAY) to make the leave-and-licence agreement. “Modi forged all the documents, taking advantage of the woman’s old age. The police have arrested his colleague. Now Modi will soon be behind bars,” said Agarwal.
Agarwal, on behalf of Bhiwandiwala, approached the Malabar Hill police to file an FIR against Modi, but the cops refused. Agarwal then approached the Girgaum court, after which, on June 9, 2008 the police registered an MECR (magisterial enquiry court register, which is equal to an FIR) against Bhatt, Modi and his parents Pragya and Deepak, who are also co-directors in the firm.
Surprisingly, the police filed a C-summary report, stating that it was a civil matter. The police filed the report thrice. Now the court, for a fourth time, has ordered further investigations in the matter. In the long legal battle last week, the police started investigations again and arrested Bhatt.
Who was Nepean?
Nepeansea Road is named after British politician and administrator Sir Evan Nepean, first baronet, who was the governor of Bombay during 1812-1819. He owned the Nepean House located near what is now the chief minister’s bungalow in Malabar Hill. The cost of the bungalow today is more than Rs 300 crore.
The other side
“I have got anticipatory bail from the high court. The court has also given police protection to me,” said Neerav Modi.