Indian tax officials will auction 68 modern Indian art paintings, including works by Raja Ravi Varma and VS Gaitonde, that were once part of fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi's collection and have been seized by the government, Reuters reported.
This would be the first of its kind of auction in a country where tax authorities have usually auctioned property, gold and luxury items, but not art, the report quoted auctioneers as saying.
Last week, the special court in Mumbai allowed the Income Tax (I-T) department to auction the artworks which were attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as part of its probe to recover dues of Rs 95.91 crore from Nirav Modi, the prime accused in the Rs 13,000-crore PNB scam.
The agency, which has seized 173 paintings owned by Nirav Modi and his shell firm Camelot Enterprises, has appointed professional auction house Saffronart for this auction.
"Until a few years ago, the tax authorities really didn't know the value of art," the news agency quoted Farah Siddiqui as saying, an art adviser who is advising clients eyeing Modi's collection.
On Monday, the fugitive diamantaire's firm moved the Bombay High Court challenging the decision of a special court to allow the auction of the artworks belonging to the jeweller. They have also sent a legal notice to the revenue department against the three-day auction calling it unlawful.
According to the ED, Modi and Camelot are the beneficial owners of these paintings.
On March 19, Nirav Modi, who has been on the run since February 2018, was arrested in London on behalf of the Indian authorities where a court remanded him in custody till March 29. The 48-year-old billionaire had been found to be doing diamond business in one of the best and high-end markets of London despite India's efforts to bring him back.