Mumbai: A Canadian national has alleged that fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, who is wanted in a multi-billion scam in India, sold him fake diamond rings for USD 200,000 (approx Rs 1.4 crore). He further said that following the fraud, his girlfriend broke up with him and he was pushed into a depression.
According to a report in South China Morning Post, Paul Alfonso -- chief executive of a payment processing company – was unaware of Nirav Modi’s involvement in a USD 2 billion fraud at Punjab National Bank in India. He bought two rings from Modi in April this year to propose to his girlfriend.
However, the couple’s celebration cut short after they found that the rings were fake.
Alfonso first met Modi at the centennial celebrations for the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel in 2012. Months later, the two ran into each other at an event in Malibu and then dined at the Mandarin Oriental in New York the following week, the report said.
Alfonso said that Modi gave him a pep talk, “…kind of an older brother figure … He told me how he worked his way up and so on” adding, “In a way, I admired him and I looked up to him”.
The duo did not communicate with each other for a couple of years until this April when Alfonso e-mailed Modi asking for an engagement ring to propose to his girlfriend.
Modi offered him a “perfect” 3.2-carat round brilliant diamond cut, D colour, VVS1 – a high-quality grade and colourless stone at USD 120,000.
However, Alfonso’s girlfriend expressed interest in another ring after spotting it in a magazine, prompting him to order a second ring. The jeweller offered him another 2.5 carat oval diamond for USD 80,000.
Alfonso transferred the money for both rings to a Hong Kong account and received the rings from Modi’s assistant Ari in Vancouver on June 17. The assistant assured him that an invoice and the authenticity certificates will be delivered to him soon.
Alfonso then proposed his girlfriend with the “gorgeous” rings and she accepted.
The couple wanted to get the rings insured but the authenticity certificates did not arrive. Alfonso followed up with Modi who continue to give him assurance that the certificates would arrive soon.
In August, Alfonso’s girlfriend took the rings to appraiser and found that the stones were fake. “When she told me, I was like ‘That’s impossible. I spent US$200,000 on those rings. There’s no way they are fake. It’s Nirav we are talking about’,” Alfonso said.
Another shock followed when he read about charges against Nirav Modi and his bankrupt companies and loan defaults.
The incident affected his relationship with his fiancée who soon broke up with him. “It does not make sense to her, because she says: ‘You are a pretty smart guy, how did you let someone scam you out of USD 200,000 without making sure the transaction was legitimate?’” Alfonso added.
Alfonso soon after slipped into depression and this also took a toll on his business.
Alfonso expressed his anger towards Modi in an August 13 e-mail saying, “Do you have any idea what kind of pain you’ve cost me and my now ex-fiancée? … You’ve completely ruined such a wonderful occasion for me and her. You’ve ruined my life.”
The South China Morning Post also reported that the Canadian national has now filed an unlimited civil lawsuit against Modi with the Superior Court of California, suing him for USD 4.2 million dollars. This includes USD 200,000 for the value of the rings, USD1 million for punitive damages and another USD3 million dollars for emotional distress, pain and suffering.