68 artworks, owned by fugitive billionaire Nirav Modi, which are at display for preview in Mumbai's JK Banquet, are set to go on auction today.
The Income Tax Department is hoping to fetch around Rs. 50 crore in auction from the artworks, which were selected after sealing Modi's properties.
Modi, the prime accused in Punjab National Bank Scam, is in custody in London.
I-T Department to auction artworks for the first time
Saffronart, a leading international auction house, has been appointed by tax authorities to conduct the auction after court's permission.
The I-T Department usually auctions properties, luxury items and gold. This will be the first time artworks will be auctioned.
Curator Farah Siddiqui, who is advising clients on Modi's collection, said, "Until few years ago, the tax authorities really didn't know the value of art."
'The collection's intrinsic value will garner positive response from collectors'
The auction will include paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, a celebrated Malayalam painter and artist from the 19th century, and artworks of VS Gaitonde, who is a modern age artist known for monochromatic and abstract work.
The Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Saffronart, Dinesh Vazirani, said, "We believe that the collection's intrinsic value will garner a positive response from collectors."
Law firm representing Modi challenged court's decision to auction
According to media reports, India Law Alliance, the law firm representing Modi's company, which owns the artworks, has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the court's decision to allow such an auction.
Although Vijay Agarwal, a lawyer working for Modi, refrained from commenting on it, the case is set to be heard tomorrow by the court, as per the reports.
Modi in custody of UK authorities till March 29
Modi, who was arrested in London last week, is a prime accused in money laundering and tax evasion case along with his uncle, Mehul Choksi.
Although Modi has denied all the charges against him and called them politically motivated, he fled the country last year.
The British authorities have him under custody till March 29.
Backstory: With his uncle, Modi cheated PNB for years
Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi pulled off the over Rs. 13,000 crore PNB scam, allegedly with the help of a few employees of the state-run bank.
A number of LoUs were issued to them since 2011, which helped them obtain funds from different entities.
The scam, initially pegged at Rs. 280 crore, grew substantially with time, prompting ED and CBI to launch an investigation.