A tiny, battered room overflowing with everyday articles in Kalbadevi, a chawl in Kalyan, an equally run-down accommodation in Dahisar, and an old Amboli flat with barely any amenities. These are the registered residential addresses of directors selected by the companies of wanted billionaire jeweller Mehul Choksi.
The directors are actually ordinary employees and little-time retail investors who were persuaded by Gili India Ltd, Nakshatra Brand Ltd and Gitanjali Gems to serve as top company members on paper.
Forget being invited to a red-carpet event, where celebrities wore Choksi and his popular nephew Nirav Modi’s bright creations, or benefitting from the Rs 11,400-crore bank fraud purportedly committed by the two men, some of the so-called directors have barely enough money to support their families. But their lives are being upended as investigators from the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate raid properties linked to the Punjab National Bank fraud and haul suspects off to jail.
Mirror tracked down several addresses listed in a first information report on Monday, and tried to interview the owners, who are stunned at being linked to the country’s largest bank scam, their family members and neighbours. Government rules need all companies to provide their directors’ residential addresses and other details.
“My father, Dinesh Gopaldas Bhatia, is 61 and he is just a small investor. He has not committed any crime, but officials have been arriving here to quiz him. Just look at our house, do you think we have cash stashed away here?” said Raunak Bhatia, pointing to their messy tenement on the third floor of Kalbadevi chawl Bhatia Niwas.
Dinesh Bhatia was offered the position of an independent director in Gili India and Nakshatra Brand in 2015. “He was asked to sign several documents and attend annual general meetings. But he never really had an active role in the companies,” Raunak said.
“They first approached my father in 2013, saying Gitanjali Gems’s turnover had outpaced a certain mark and they were looking for independent directors. My father agreed because it seemed like a big deal. The company said it would offer him Rs 2 lakh.”
Dinesh Bhatia, whose name features in the FIR, was not home on Monday. Raunak claimed he decided to withdraw from the post after the PNB fraud appeared to light last week. “But before he could visit the company’s offices, CBI officers came to our house and questioned him,” he said. “I am worried that my father will never be capable to get out of this mess while the main accused roams free abroad.”
Raunak’s elder brother, Ankit, plans to get married soon, but the family fears the case will ruin their reputation in society.
Aniyath Shivraman Nair is listed as a director of Gili India Ltd in the CBI’s first information report. His registered home is a chawl in a narrow lane in Kalyan East. Mirror found that Nair and his wife, Reema, do not actually live there; they have rented out the place and stay in an apartment buildingnearby.
“He is not actually a director in the company. He is an accountant. Sometime back, company officials said they would provide him the designation of a director for the purpose of documentation,” Reema said at their flat.
The couple have two children, one in school and one in college.
Dahisar resident Mihir Joshi has also been linked to Gili India as a director. His address mentioned in the FIR is a one-room-kitchen in a chawl. It has been rented out, and he lives in a flat in the same locality. Joshi’s tenant, Jamna Prasad, said cops had visited the place lastweek.
“We pay a rent of Rs 7,000. We have never communicated with Mihir Joshi. Either his father arrives here to gather the rent or we go to their house. All we know is that their businessmen,” Prasad said.