Mumbai, India—Leaders of India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council said recently that the trade there is witnessing a lending “crisis” in the wake of billion-dollar bank fraud scandal allegedly perpetrated by Nirav Modi.

On Feb. 13, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against Modi, his brother Neeshal and his uncle, Gitanjali Managing Director Mehul Choksi, accusing the trio of colluding with employees of Punjab National Bank, the second largest state-run bank in the country, to take out $1.8 billion in loans that were not properly approved or backed and never repaid.

Issued through Letters of Understanding, or LoUs, employees working on the inside allegedly helped Modi and his co-conspirators secure the loans over a seven-year period with little or no collateral and without entering the transactions into the bank’s database.

The CBI has not said what Modi and the others did with the money, but the agency has been on the hunt for the billionaire diamantaire since he left India in January, and has seized his assets and shut down his diamond factories.

Since news of the scandal broke, GJEPC said banks and other financial institutions have tightened lending to Indian firms and are insisting on securing more collateral before making loans, echoing what a longtime industry banker told National Jeweler back in February: that the scheme would have a ripple effect throughout an industry already struggling to secure financing.

The banker said the Modi fraud case “is another stamp, another demerit that says, ‘Just stay away from [the jewelry industry]. Don’t go anywhere near it. It’s not reliable. Why would you want to do business with these people?’”

Overall, the GJEPC estimates that lending to the gem and jewelry trade is down by at least 10 percent so far this year, which has led to a double-digit decline in exports.

India’s gem and jewelry exports for April to June 2018 have totaled $10.1 billion compared with $11.1 billion in the same period last year, a 9 percent decline. The GJEPC said it expects exports for fiscal year 2018-2019 to be down 10 percent, a “drastic drop.”

GJEPC Chairman Pramod Agrawal recently issued a public plea for the government to intervene and aid an “ailing industry,” noting the GJPEC has taken steps like the MyKYC bank initiative to mitigate risk and increase transparency in the sector.

“The council is taking all efforts to self-regulate and instill confidence among key stakeholders through a slew of reforms. However, the industry is witnessing a crisis of sorts as the banks have curtailed lending to the traders and are demanding collateral security and extensive documentation,” Agrawal said. “We are hoping the government will intervene and bring some relief to the ailing industry that contributes 7 percent to the (Indian) GDP.”

He called for the implementation for the jewelry trade of an interest subvention scheme, which the government has instituted in the past for farmers affected by natural disasters.

Get the Daily News >

Copyright © 2020 National Jeweler. All Rights Reserved.