On Tuesday, the Income Tax department auctioned art pieces owned by absconding diamantaire Nirav Modi, who is the main accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud worth Rs 14,000 crore. The department fetched a gross amount of Rs 59.37 core of which it gets Rs 55 crore, the remainder being the commission to the Mumbai-based auction house Saffronart and the buyer's premium.
This is the first time a governmental department has used the means of auctioning through a professional art house to sell artwork. A total of 68 art pieces were put on auction to recover Rs 97 crore from Modi.
An untitled work by abstract artist VS Gaitonde that had fetched Rs 29.3 crore back in 2015, making it the country's most expensive bid for an artwork, however, won the highest bid of Rs 25.24 crore (including buyer's premium) in Tuesday's auction.
The sale is being undertaken under relevant sections of the Income Tax Act of 1961 as the department was looking to raise up to Rs 97 crore, which is the tax liabilities of Modi shell firm Camelot Enterprises.
The auctions took place after a special PLMA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court on March 20 had allowed the law enforcement agencies to sell 173 paintings and 11 luxury vehicles owned by Modi. He is currently in a London jail seeking bail, whose hearing is scheduled for 29 March.