Companies owned by fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi have allegedly siphoned off over Rs 6,344.96 crore from the Punjab National Bank (PNB) using fraudulent letters of undertaking and foreign letters of credit, a CBI investigation into the scam has detected.
The findings were submitted by the CBI in a supplementary chargesheet filed before a special court in Mumbai last week, where the agency said the PNB was conned by its employees who were allegedly hand in gloves with Choksi and his company executives and who facilitated the scam as part of a criminal conspiracy.
The PNB officials at the bank's Brady House branch in Mumbai issued 165 letters of undertaking (LoUs) and 58 foreign letters of credit (FLCs) during March-April 2017, against which 311 bills were discounted.
These LoUs and FLCs were allegedly issued to Choksi's firms without any sanctioned limit or cash margin and without making entries in the bank's central banking system to evade any scrutiny in case of a default.
LoUs are a guarantee given by a bank on behalf of its client to a foreign bank. If the client does not repay to the foreign bank, the liability falls on the guarantor bank.
"Since the accused companies did not repay the amount availed against the said fraudulent LoUs and FLCs, PNB made the payment of Rs 6,344.97 crore (USD 965.18 million), including the overdue interest, to the overseas banks, which had advanced buyer's credit and discounted the bills against the fraudulent LoUs and FLCs issued by the PNB," the CBI's supplementary chargesheet has alleged.
The PNB had accused Choksi of duping it to the tune of Rs 7,080 crore. CBI officials said the matter is still under investigation and the final figures of loss suffered by the bank can only be determined once all the LoUs are examined and the probe is complete.
In addition to the 18 accused named in the first chargesheet, the agency has named four new accused in its supplementary report, including the former international head of the Gitanjali Group of Companies, Sunil Verma, two PNB officials -- single-window operator Sagar Sawant and AGM Sanjay Prasad -- and a director of the Gili and the Nakshtra brands under the group, Dhanesh Sheth.
The supplementary chargesheet, filed more than three years after the first chargesheet in the case against Choksi and his companies, coincides with the legal proceedings against the fugitive diamantaire in a court of Dominica, where he was arrested for "illegal entry" on May 24 after his mysterious disappearance from neighbouring Antigua and Barbuda.