Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who perpetrated one of the biggest banking scams in India, continues to fleece people even though the probe agencies, including the Interpol, is yet to put him behind the bars. A Canadian national has now alleged that Nirav Modi sold two fake diamond rings worth over Rs 1.4 crore ($200,000) to him in April, two months after the Punjab National Bank scam worth Rs 13,700 crore was unearthed in February.
As per a report published in South China Morning Post, Paul Alfonso bought two diamond rings from Nirav Modi without knowing that he was at the centre of the largest fraud in the Indian banking history. Alfonso is a chief executive of a payment processing company who spends his time in Vancouver as well as California. The report claims Alfonso met Nirav Modi at the "Centennial celebrations for the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel in 2012". Following a few other meetings during events in Malibu and then at the Mandarin Oriental in New York, he never met Nirav Modi until April 2018 when Alfonso emailed the Firestar Diamond owner saying he wanted to buy a 'special' engagement ring for this girlfriend.
Alfonso says during their earlier meetings, Nirav Modi came out as a "very well-respected person". "We ran into people and they all knew him by name. In a way, I admired him and I looked up to him. He was very upbeat, very friendly, I did not get any bad vibes from him. He seemed a very genuine and down to earth person. I felt that I had a good connection with him," Alfonso told the newspaper.
The man claims he did not have an iota of knowledge about Nirav Modi being involved in the biggest fraud in India. Through his email conversation, Alfonso asked Nirav Modi if he could design the ring for him at the budget of $100,000, to which Nirav Modi said he'll be "honoured" to help him create "your dream engagement ring".
The ring Alfonso bought from Nirav Modi.
Nirav Modi, through his assistant "Ari" assured to contact Alfonso in two weeks to offer him a 3.2-carat round diamond cut ring, which is considered a very high-quality grade and colourless stone. "I can give it to you for wholesale at $120,000. This is such a beautiful diamond ... you can't go wrong with this one," Nirav Modi wrote to the Canadian national.
Later, Alfonso claimed his girlfriend showed an interest in buying another ring she saw in a "magazine", and he thought of ordering it for their 10-year anniversary in future. This time, he said Nirav Modi offered him a 2.5-carat oval diamond ring for $80,000. Both the times, Alfonso paid money online from his bank account based in Hong Kong. As promised, Nirav Modi delivered the rings through his assistant on June 17 but didn't send the invoice and authenticity certificates, assuring Alfonso would get it "soon".
Even though all things went well -- and Alfonso's girlfriend accepted the proposal -- the authenticity certificates from Nirav Modi didn't arrive despite the fugitive businessman assuring they will be delivered via DHL Express.
The man sent several emails to Nirav Modi but he kept on giving assurances. "I had to get both rings insured because they were pretty high value. For that, we needed to have a letter from someone certified to appraise the rings. My fiancee went to get them appraised," Alfonso told the newspaper.
To his shock, the diamonds were fake. This time everything was out in the open. That was the time when Alfonso claims, he started digging deep about Nirav Modi and came to know about the PNB fraud, which actually had generated a flurry of coverage across India as well as abroad.
This eventually affected their relationship and they broke up after two days of the revelation. Alfonso claims he "suffered from depression" and says he has few hopes of getting back his money.
Like the Indian investigative agencies, Alfonso has been trying to figure out ways to find Nirav Modi but to no avail. Filing an unlimited civil lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, Alfonso has now sued Nirav Modi of $4.2 million, including $1 million for punitive damages and another $3 million dollars for emotional distress.
Edited by Manoj Sharma