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PNB fraud: Central agencies intensify crackdown on Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi; assets worth Rs 5,671 crore seized

New Delhi: The crackdown on billionaire diamantaire Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi intensified on Monday with the ED seizing jewellery worth Rs 22 crore, the I-T department attaching seven properties, and the CBI grilling four senior executives of his company.

Central Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary met senior PNB and finance ministry officials in connection with the Rs 11,400-crore fraud case.

Enforcement Directorate (ED) Chief Karnal Singh also flew down to Mumbai to review the PNB fraud-related anti-money laundering investigations which are being conducted by a special team of the agency.

The total value of gems and jewellery seized so far stands at Rs 5,671 crore.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

As part of the multi-agency probe in the case, the Income Tax department on Monday attached seven properties of the Gitanjali group and its promoter Mehul Choksi, uncle of Modi, in Mumbai.

Official sources said ED sleuths searched Modi's flat in the posh Samudra Mahal apartments in upmarket Worli in south Mumbai.

The central probe agency also conducted searches at 38 other locations in several cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Thane, Kolkata, Delhi, Jammu, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Surat.

While the ED is looking into the money laundering aspect of the Rs 11,400-crore scam, the CBI continued to focus on unravelling the mystery behind the issuance of Letters of Understanding and Letters of Credit bypassing the bank's regulatory mechanism.

The agency on Monday questioned Vipul Ambani, president (finance) of Modi's Fire Star Diamond, its Chief Financial Officer Ravi Gupta, and executives Saurabh Sharma and Subhash Parab.

It also intensified its search operation at the Brady Road branch of the Punjab National Bank in Mumbai from where all the LOUs and LCs were issued, officials said.

They said Ambani had been holding the position for over three years. It is believed he was aware of the financial transactions carried out by the company of the jeweller-businessman, who fled the country before the PNB reported the fraud.

Ambani is understood to be a relative of late industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani.

A CBI spokesperson said the PNB branch was briefly sealed early this morning to prevent any "possible tampering".

He said the seal and the notice were removed during the day.

The CBI had on Sunday started a search operation at the PNB branch, which is at the centre of the colossal banking fraud involving Modi and Choksi.

The agency continued to question two arrested PNB officials and an authorised signatory of Nirav Modi's company, the officials said.

The probe agency has also started interrogating 13 other officials of the PNB, including general manager-level officers, they said.

CBI officials said the agency is still questioning arrested bank officials Gokulnath Shetty (retired) and Single Window Operator Manoj Kharat, and Hemant Bhat, the signatory of Nirav Modi's company.

On the money laundering part, the ED obtained information from the whistle-blower in the case who had said he had raised flags against Choksi's loan in 2013.

It has also sought PNB's audit reports since 2011 from the RBI, they said.

The ED is also moving to attach at least two dozen immovable properties of Modi, Choksi and their concerns under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED and the Income Tax department have zeroed in on about 200 dummy or shell companies in India and abroad that were being used to route or receive funds as part of the alleged fraud.

It is suspected that the shell firms were being used by the accused to launder money and create “benami” assets in the form of land, gold and precious stones, which are now being probed by the tax department.

Modi, Choksi and others are being investigated by multiple probe agencies after it recently came to light, following a complaint by the PNB, that they allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.

The CBI and the ED have registered two FIRs each to probe the case.


Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 21:06 PM

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