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Family wanted over $1bn gold and gems scam ‘enjoy expensive London lifestyle’

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A suspected diamond and gold fraudster wanted in India over a $1 billion scam has been found in London enjoying an “expensive lifestyle” with his family, the High Court has been told.

Jatin Mehta is alleged to have carried out a sophisticated fraud with his wife and sons and one other conspirator to plunder a fortune from an Indian gold bullion and jewellery manufacturer and a diamond company.

The alleged scam involved a complex web including companies in the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Singapore and Ireland, and sham derivatives trading, gold dealing and loan defaults to “conceal the process of funds to fraudulent destinations”.

When authorities in Delhi began investigating, Mr Mehta and his family renounced their Indian citizenship and obtained passports from St Kitts and Nevis — which has no extradition treaty with India — before vanishing. But the High Court has been told that they have “been discovered to be living in three houses in London — in St John’s Wood, Maida Vale and Hampstead Garden Suburb”.

The revelations came as a hearing was held at the High Court following a US $1 billion worldwide freezing order against Mr Mehta, his wife Sonia, their sons Vishal and Suraj, and business associate Haytham Obidah.

It is based on allegations that the Mehta family was responsible for a “highly sophisticated fraud” from two diamond companies, Winsome Diamonds and Forever Precious Diamonds, controlled by Mr Mehta.

Ian Wilson QC, representing companies trying to trace the fortune, called for Mr Mehta and his family to give a full account of where the money had gone. Mr Wilson said the only explanation offered by the Mehtas was that the hundreds of millions of dollars had been lost through “catastrophic foreign exchange and commodities derivatives” trading by companies in the UAE, but this had been “shown to be false”.

Mr Mehta and his family remain subject to a worldwide freezing order. The order was made by another High Court judge, Mr Justice Johnson, at an earlier private Rolls Building hearing.

Lawyers for Mr Mehta and his family are contesting the claims.

But Mr Justice Johnson, at the earlier hearing, said that there was “a good, arguable case” that they had been responsible for a “very substantial fraud” which “was both highly sophisticated and carried out on an enormous scale”.

He added that there was “a real risk of dissipation” of the allegedly stolen money and that although the suspected crime had taken place “some time ago” the Mehtas “whereabouts was actually unknown” until recently when they were tracked down by liquidators to addresses in London.

“Their location had not been identified either by the Indian criminal authorities or anyone else,” the judge said. Mr Justice Johnson added that criminal proceedings had begun in India against Jatin, Sonia and Suraj Mehta and that “it is the position of the Indian Enforcement Directorate that... Jatin Mehta fled India in order to avoid criminal prosecution”.

The worldwide freezing order issued against the Mehta family and Mr Obidah, who has not been traced, covers £743,176,152.77, the equivalent of the US $932,466,942 claim against them.