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CBI leaker speculates to TOI: Maybe will file case against ‘top law firm’ in Nirav Modi case (aka Cyril Amarchand)

CBI signals it wants to play more hardball with CAM
CBI signals it wants to play more hardball with CAM

According to a frontpage exclusive in the Times of India this morning, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is “exploring the option of naming a top law firm either as a conspirator, or registering a fresh case - for possession of stolen property - after investigating officers found official documents belonging to the bank on its premises”.

According to TOI:

CBI officials said that during a search at the legal firm’s premises in February, they found documents which ought to have been in the possession of the bank. These documents were handed over by PNB officer Gokulnath Shetty (now under arrest) to jeweller Mehul Choksi. “Shetty didn’t want certain documents to be kept at the bank. He handed them over to Choksi. They were then shifted to the legal firm’s offices,” an official said.

An unnamed CBI official had told the TOI that: “We had information that documents were being shifted from one place to another before reaching the legal firm’s office.”

Although the article does not name the law firm, it is obvious that it is making a reference to Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.

On 26 February, we were first to report that the CBI had knocked on CAM doors, with the firm having cooperated and shared with the CBI documents relating to an instruction in a legal matter by Modi.

And, as we had predicted in our in-depth analysis a month ago, the CAM-Nirav Modi story faces potential complications down the road, with with privilege issues looming that could end up biting either the CBI or the law firm, if Modi or other accused end up claiming that those documents were disclosed to the CBI illegally.

The CBI, for one, has already made clear in court that the letters of undertaking (LOUs) recovered from CAM are being relied on in its cases against at least two Modi affiliates, according to an earlier report in the Economic Times.

This CBI leak of a speculative prosecution of CAM therefore could appear as either a strategic shot across CAM and Modi’s bow, to discourage any potential future privilege battles, or it could also just have been an individual CBI officer unofficially thinking out loud to a TOI reporter about how the CBI could crack privilege, if it does come up.

In any case, the decision of TOI not to name CAM is strange, though not unusual for a mainstream newspaper, which often exercise excessive caution when dealing with a big law firm or lawyers.

Alternatively, not naming CAM could also have been a request by the CBI source, which would fit with the warning shot theory.

We have reached out to Cyril Amarchand managing partner Cyril Shroff for comment this morning, but have also not had a response, much like the TOI, which had sent a text message to the unnamed firm’s “managing partner” on Friday, an email on Saturday, and an answer phone message on Sunday, according to its report.

In what appears to be unrelated to anything CAM, the CBI official had also told the TOI that the CBI has been interviewing a consultant dubbed “AJ” who has allegedly acted as intermediary between jeweller Mehul Choksi, who is affiliated with Nirav Modi companies, and politicians and bureaucrats supplying them with 1kg gold bars to “take care of” them.

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