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India to auction rare art belonging to diamond magnate Nirav Modi

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds an effigy depicting billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi during a protest in Kolkata

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The seized assets of Indian diamond magnate Nirav Modi, arrested in Britain last year over fraud allegations, will be auctioned within the next two months, the Mumbai-based Saffronart auctioneers said on Tuesday.

The auction, sanctioned by a court order, is part of efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to sell assets confiscated in criminal cases with the proceeds used to shore up banks struggling with piles of bad debt.

Modi, a billionaire jeweller in his late forties whose diamonds have adorned Hollywood stars such as Kate Winslet and Dakota Johnson, was arrested over allegations of his involvement in a $2 billion fraud at India's state-run Punjab National Bank. He has denied the charges and is opposing efforts to extradite him from Britain to India.

Highlighting Saffronart's auction of Modi's assets - seized by India's financial crime-fighting agency, will be "Boy with Lemon" by pioneering Hungarian-Indian modernist artist Amrita Sher-Gil valued at 120-180 million rupees ($1.69-$2.53 million).

Other paintings to be sold will include an oil on canvas by India's best known painter M.F. Husain of similar value, and a work worth 70-90 million rupees by modernist V.S. Gaitonde.

Also on the block will be luxury wristwatches from Jaeger Lecoultre and Gerrard Perregaux, several Birkin and Kelly luxury handbags from Hermès and two cars - a Porsche Panamera and a Rolls Royce Ghost, a Saffronart statement said.

It said it was assessing the value of some assets and would say next week how much it expected to raise from the auction.

Indian tax authorities raised about $8 million in an auction conducted last year by Saffronart of rare oil paintings that were seized from Modi.

The pending auction, however, will be the first time India's financial crimes agency has appointed a professional auction house to sell off seized assets, according to Saffronart.


(Reporting by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)