PNB scam: Fresh FIR filed against Mehul Choksi

PNB

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CBI filed new FIR against Gitanjali Group promoter Mehul Choksi for alleged fraud in the issuance of Letters of Understanding worth Rs 11,400 crore from Punjab National Bank, official said on Friday.

Central Bureau  of Investigation has alleged that the FIR pertains to 143 LOUs worth over Rs 4,886 cr fraudulently issued to 3 organisations of Choksi — Gitanjali Gems, Nakshatra and Gili — during 2017-18, they said.

The agency had earlier filed a separate case involving Rs 280-crore fraud, which has now been expanded to cover LoUs worth Rs 6,498 crore issued to accused companies of Nirav Modi and Choksi.

An LoU is a letter of comfort issued by one bank to branches of other banks, based on which foreign branches offer credit to buyers. After registering the FIR, the CBI carried out searches at 26 locations across six cities covering the premises of 18 Indian subsidiaries of Gitanjali Group.

Four officials of Punjab National Bank were also questioned, Bechu Tiwari, chief manager posted at Nariman Point branch, Mumbai during February 2015-17; DGM Sanjay Kumar Prasad who was then AGM at Brady house branch during period 2016-17; chief manager of zonal audit office Mohinder Kumar Sharma, who was then concurrent auditor during November 2015-January 17; and Manoj Kharat, then single window operator during November 2014-Decemeber 2017, the officials said.

They said a special team under a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) is being formed to probe the case.

In its complaint, the public sector bank has alleged that 293 Letters of Understanding (LoUs) worth Rs 11,400 cr were fraudulently issued to the companies of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi from one of the PNB’s branches in Mumbai.

Expanding the ambit of the first FIR registered on 31 January against the billionaire diamond merchant and Choksi, the agency has 150 LoUs worth Rs 6,498 crore issued by the bank.

The LoUs were issued by the Punjab National Bank to Indian banks in Mauritius, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Antwerp and Frankfurt for the accused companies, the officials said.

The remaining 143 LoUs worth Rs 4,886 crore will be part of probe under the new FIR registered on Friday.

The accused in the new FIR include Choksi (managing director, Gitanjali Gems), Gokulnath Shetty (retired DGM of Punjab National Bank), Manoj Kharat (then single window officer of Punjab National Bank), and companies - Gitanjali Gems Limited , Gili India Limited, Nakshatra Brand Limited, directors of the companies Krishnan Sangameshwaran, Nazura Yash Ajaney, Dinesh Gopaldas Bhatia, Aniyath Shivraman Nair and Dhanesh Vrajlal Sheth.

Also named in the FIR are Jyoti Bharat Vora, Anil Umesh Haldipur, Chandrakant Kanu Karkare, Pankhuri Abhijeet Warange, Mihir Bhaskar Joshi and unidentified bank officials.

The CBI has alleged in the FIR that accused bank officials Shetty and Kharat in connivance with accused companies and others defrauded Punjab National Bank to the tune of Rs 4,886.70 crore, the CBI spokesperson said.

The agency alleged that the accused officials issued fraudulent and unauthorised letters of undertakings in favour of foreign branches of different India-based banks.

The officials omitted entries of LoUs in the core banking system of the bank issued on behalf of the accused companies to avoid detection, they said.

(With agency inputs)

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