Mumbai : Gokulnath Shetty, retired Deputy Manager of Punjab National bank, Manoj Hanumant Kharat; single window operator at the bank and Hemant Dahyalal Bhatt, authorised signatory of Diamond R US, Stellar Diamond and Solar Exports have been arrested on Saturday early morning by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the loss of Rs 280.70 crores to Punjab National Bank during 2017. They were produced before the special CBI court and remanded to police custody till March 3.
Avneesh Nepalla, Deputy General Manager of PNB, had filed a First Information Report (FIR) against jeweller Nirav Modi, his brother Neeshal Modi, Nirav’s wife Ami, business partner Mehul Chinubhai Choksi who are all partners of Diamond R US, Solar exports and Stellar Diamonds and against Shetty and Kharat and other unknown persons for cheating and also abuse of official person by public servants of PNB for causing undue pecuniary advantage to the firms.
It was alleged in the FIR that Shetty and Kharat posted in the Forex Department at the Mid Corporate branch, Brady House at Mumbai fraudulently issued eight Letters of Understanding (LoU) amounting to Rs 280.70 crores on February 9, February 10 and February 14 in favour of Allahabad Bank and Axis Bank based in Hong Kong without following the prescribed procedure by obtaining required request applications, documents and approval of the authorities thereto and without making entries in the bank system avoiding detection of the transactions, so made, transmitted SWIFT instructions to overseas branches of Indian banks for raising buyer’s credit and funding the Nostro accounts of PNB. The funds so raised for payment of import bills have not been used for such purposes in many cases.The investigation conducted so far revealed that beneficiaries of the fraud of Rs 280.70 crores of public money namely Nirav, his wife Ami, his brother Neeshal and partner Choksi, are all partners of the firms. The accused have fled the country in the first week of January 2018 before the bank could register a complaint with CBI in Mumbai. Shetty in conspiracy with Kharat fraudulently issued LoUs without sanction and without having the powers to do so and thereby abused his official position as a public servant. Investigations further revealed that documents or applications for issue of fraudulent LoUs were not available with PNB. The amount of fraudulent LoUs issued are likely to be reportedly around Rs 6000 crores.
Shetty, Kharat and Bhatt were called to the CBI office at BKC to understand the modus operandi about the scam. They were all interrogated about the modalities for issuing LoUs to Modi group and his associates and the reasons for which LoUs were not entered into the CBS system of PNB and whether this was done within the financial powers of Shetty and the role of other senior officers of PNB. Kharat had acted upon Shetty’s directions in making and verifying SWIFT messages before the latter authorised and transmitted them during 2017. Kharat admitted that it was happening regularly and many other officers whose names are yet to be revealed were involved in the scam.
As per the authorisation of Modi, Bhatt and Kavita Mankikar were authorised to sign on behalf of the firms with an Account Opening Form. Bhatt is also a Director in 15 to 16 companies of the Modi group and is aware about the modus operandi of the scam. Bhatt’s lawyer advocate Yashwardhan Tiwari argued before the court that his client’s name was not even mentioned in the FIR. The Special Public Prosecutor Om Prakash argued before the court that the accused were not co-operating with the investigations and missing documents related to issue of fraudulent LoUs were to be recovered. He argued before the court that instead of money going to foreign exporters, was transferred to Allahabad and Axis Bank at Hong Kong.
On Saturday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted further searches at 21 locations across India. Diamonds, gold jewellery and precious stones worth Rs 25 crore (book value) have been seized. Total seizure till now is Rs 5674 crore. The CBI conducted a search at PNB’s branch at Brady House at Fort on Saturday which is at the centre of the alleged scam. Meanwhile, six PNB officials are being examined. The ED has issued a second summons on Saturday to all the four accused Nirav Modi, his wife Ami, brother Neeshal and business partner Mehul Choksi on Saturday. The accused have been asked to be present before the ED office at Mumbai in the next week.
SINGHVI’S THREAT TO SUE SITHARAMAN
Senior Congress MP and spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi threatened civil and criminal defamation against Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her colleagues for alleging that his wife is a shareholder in one of the companies of PNB scamster Nirav Modi.
In a statement, he said: “Nirmala Sitharaman and her colleagues are liable to civil and criminal defamation for making ill considered, ignorant and patently false allegations.”
“Neither my wife, sons nor I have anything whatsoever to do with Gitanjali or Nirav Modi companies,” he said, regretting that “BJP”s cheap sense of politics has reached ludicrous and ridiculous proportions.”
He added, “Nirav Modi’s company was a tenant of a Kamala Mills property (in Mumbai) owned by Adwait Holdings in which my wife and sons are directors. Adwait holdings owns a commercial property at Parel, as it does elsewhere, which was rented by Firestone many years ago. Neither Adwait nor my family has any interest with Modi or Firestone. Last August, Firestone gave notice to quit tenancy and vacated the Parel Kamala Mills premises in December 2017.”
PNB officials urged them to pay dues
Mumbai: Punjab National Bank (PNB) officials had met representatives of Nirav Modi and Gitanjali groups to impress upon them to pay outstanding amounts, the bank said in a clarification to the stock exchanges. “A series of meetings were held with representatives of Nirav Modi group and Gitanjali group at Delhi and Mumbai to impress upon them to pay the amount. They were directed to provide all necessary documents as per law to ensure that the imports are bonafide trade transactions,” the PNB statement said in clarification dated Feb 15 to exchanges accessed on Saturday.
Intesa Sanpaolo SPA (HK) only foreign bank to be hit
New Delhi: The only foreign bank affected in Nirav Modi/Mehul Choksi fraud case turns out to be Intesa Sanpaolo SPA whose Hong Kong branch was called upon to provide money to Gitanjali Gems against a foreign letter of credit (FLC) issued by the Punjab National Bank (PNB). The amount raised through the Hong Kong branch of the Italy-based bank by the Gitanjali group company headed by Mehul C. Choksi, who left the country in January, is $2,200,011.65 (Rs 14.08 crore) against an FLC given by PNB, which is coming up for payment on March 19.
CVC summons PNB, Fin Ministry officials
New Delhi: After a major crackdown by Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Income Tax (IT) Department, one more law enforcement agency has swung into action in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) summoned the PNB management and Finance Ministry officials to appear before it. Top officials of PNB and the Finance Ministry have been asked to appear before the CVC on February 19. CVC is an apex governmental body to address governmental corruption.
‘Had notified Gujarat HC against Choksi’
Gujarat: A jeweller from Gujarat’s Bhavnagar, Digvijay Singh Jadeja, said that he had notified the Gujarat High Court and state government against Mehul Choksi, MD, Gitanjali Gems, in 2015, but nobody heard him back then. “In 2015, I had notified it to Gujarat High Court and state government and requested them to seize his passport. Had action been taken then, he wouldn’t have escaped today,” Jeweller DS Jadeja told ANI. The Gujarat-based jeweller further claimed that Choksi, who is Nirav Modi’s uncle, duped him of Rs 60 crore.