Fugitive Indian jeweller's luxury collection raises $7.65 mn

The auction of luxury items seized from Indian fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, including an Amrita Sher-Gil painting at right, raised $7.65 million -- he is currently in Britain fighting to stop his extradition

A Rolls-Royce Ghost, Hermes handbags and rare paintings were among the luxury items seized from fugitive billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi that raised $7.65 million for India's tax authorities at an auction Thursday.

Authorities put the high-end items up for sale to recover back taxes owed by Modi, who is accused of involvement in a massive bank fraud that rocked India's corporate community.

The fugitive merchant fled India in February 2018 and has been fighting in a London court to stop his extradition from Britain.

"We saw intensely competitive bidding across categories and from around the world," said Dinesh Vazirani, the chief of the auction house Saffrontart.

The Rolls-Royce fetched $240,000, while a 1935 masterpiece by Amrita Sher-Gil sold for $2.24 million.

Other items that were auctioned included watches by Jaeger-LeCoultre and Patek Philippe, several Hermes Birkin and Kelly bags, and Chanel handbags.

Forbes estimated Modi's wealth at $1.73 billion before the alleged fraud, placing him 85th on India's rich list.

Modi owned luxury jewellery stores in several major cities across the world and boasted celebrity customers including actresses Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas before his downfall.

He was arrested in London on March 19, 2019.

That month, most of his art collection was auctioned off, raising $8 million for tax authorities.

Authorities also dynamited the billionaire's 33,000-square-foot (3,000-square-metre) seafront mansion near Mumbai, which was believed to be worth $14 million, after it was seized.