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Punjab National Bank scam: CBI, ED continue raids on Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, seize ornaments worth Rs 549 crore

New Delhi: Central probe agencies CBI and ED on Friday continued their crackdown in a Rs 11,400-crore bank fraud case involving billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi and family, registering a fresh case against his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi, and claimed to have seized ornaments worth Rs 549 crore during raids.

The CBI, immediately after registering the fresh FIR, carried out raids at 26 locations across six cities covering the premises of 18 Indian subsidiaries of Gitanjali Group owned by Choksi. In a parallel action, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) claimed to have seized precious stones worth Rs 549 crore, registered a fresh case under the stringent money laundering act against Choksi and others, and barred overseas outlets of Nirav Modi from carrying out any business.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which formed a special team headed by a deputy inspector general, has registered the fresh FIR against Gitanjali Group promoter Mehul Choksi in connection with alleged fraud in the issuance of Letter of Understanding (LoU) worth Rs 11,400 crore from state-run Punjab National Bank.

The CBI said that the new FIR alleges issuance of 143 LoUs worth over Rs 4,886 crore fraudulently to three companies of Choksi — Gitanjali Gems, Nakshatra and Gili — during the period 2017-18. A LoU is a letter of comfort issued by one bank to branches of other banks, based on which foreign branches offer credit to buyers.

The CBI also questioned four officials of Punjab National Bank — 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 Nov 2015-January 2017; and Manoj Kharat, then Single Window Operator during November 2014-December 2017, the officials said.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has already suspended passports of Nirav Modi and Choksi for four weeks on the request of the Enforcement Directorate.

In its complaint, Punjab National Bank has alleged that 293 Letters of Understanding worth Rs 11,400 crore were fraudulently issued to the companies of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi from one its branches in Mumbai.

Expanding the ambit of the first FIR registered on 31 January against the billionaire diamond merchant and Choksi, the agency has included the amount of Rs 6,498 crore issued through 150 Letters of Understanding. The remaining Rs 4,886 crore issued through 143 LOUs will be part of the probe under the new FIR registered on Friday.

According to the agency FIR registered on Friday, LoUs worth Rs 2,144 crore were issued in favour of Gitanjali Gems, Rs 566 crore in favour of Gili and Rs 321 crore in favour of Nakshatra, they said, adding that against these LoUs, letters of credit were issued to the three companies by overseas branches of Indian banks. Besides, Rs 575 crore of foreign letters of credit or FLCs were issued to Gitanjali gems, Rs 625 crore of FLCs to Gili and Rs 598 crore of FLCs to Nakshatra.

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

The officials also said the CBI approached the Interpol with a request for issuing 'diffusion notice' which was aimed at locating an individual.

Forty-six-year-old Nirav Modi, who holds an Indian passport, left the country on 1 January, while his brother Nishal, a Belgian citizen, departed from the country on the same day. However, whether they travelled together has to be probed, they said.

Modi's wife Ami, a US citizen, left on 6 January and his business Mehul Choksi left the country on 4 January, the officials said.

The Enforcement Directorate, which on Thursday claimed to have seized precious stones to the tune of Rs 5,100 crore, on Friday claimed to have made further seizures of Rs 549 crore, besides registering a fresh money laundering case based on the new CBI FIR.

The agency, which comes under the ministry of finance, has directed Nirav Modi's outlets based in New York, London, Beijing and Macau not to transact any business till the probe on.

The ED has also summoned Nirav Modi and Choksi in connection with its money laundering probe. Modi and Choksi, who fled the country in the first week of January, have been summoned under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and asked to appear before the agency within a week's time. The notices were handed over to the directors of the firms of the two businessmen as they were not in the country, the officials said.

While Modi runs a jewellery brand chain under his name, Choksi is the promoter of Gitanjali Gems.


Updated Date: Feb 16, 2018 22:56 PM

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