New Delhi: The CBI on Friday registered fresh FIRs against 10 directors of the Gitanjali Group of companies based on a complaint registered by the Punjab National Bank in a multi-crore fraud case and questioned four bank officials in connection with the case, an official said.
The FIR has also named two former bank employees who were said to be directly involved in the fraudulent transactions. Additionally, three companies of Gitanjali Group were also named in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR registered on Thursday for causing alleged loss of Rs 4,886.72 crore.
The CBI also conducted searches at 26 locations related to the Group in six cities – Mumbai, Pune, Surat, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Coimbatore – across five states. The raids were conducted at the official and residential premises of accused including three private companies and their directors, factories and plants which led to recovery of incriminating documents and other items, the official said.
The CBI registered the case under charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating of Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act against Mehul Choksi, the Managing Director of Gitanjali Gems Ltd based at Mumbai’s Walkeshwar.
Choksi is the uncle of billionaire diamond trader Nirav Modi who has been accused by the PNB of fraud along with his wife, Ami and brother Nishal Modi. The PNB had filed the complaint on February 13 in the Rs 11,515 crore ($1.8 billion) fraudulent transaction case.
On Thursday, several outlets belonging to Modi and Choksi were searched by the Enforcement Directorate and assets, including gold, jewellery and diamonds, seized.
In its FIR, the CBI named three Mumbai-based private companies — Gitanjali Gems, Gili India Ltd and Nakshatra Brand Ltd.
PNB’s retired Deputy Manager Gokul Nath Sethi, and Single Window Operator Manoj Hemant Karat are also named in the CBI FIR along with ten directors of the three private firms namely Krishnan Sangameshwaran, Nazura Yashjaney, Gopal Das Bhatia, Aniyath Shivraman, Dhanesh Vrajlal Sheth, Jyoti Bharat Vora, Anil Umesh Haldipur, Chandrakant Kanu Karkare, Pankhuri Abhijeet Varange and Mihir Bhaskar Joshi.
The CBI has also mentioned some unknown public servants and others in its FIR.
According to FIR, it was alleged in the PNB complaint that Gitanjali Gems, Gili India Ltd and Nakshatra Brand Ltd and their directors in connivance with Sethi and other officials had caused an alleged loss of Rs 4,886.72 crore to the bank.
“The accused officials in conspiracy with the private persons had sent unauthorised Letters of Understanding (LoUs) and Foreign Letters of Credit (FLC) to overseas branches of Indian banks based on which these overseas branches released funds to the suppliers of said companies or cleared the liabilities outstanding against the said companies.
“They did not make entries of the LoUs purportedly issued on behalf of the accused companies in core banking system to evade detection.
“Funds were meant for payment of import bills or the accused companies. However, they were dishonestly utilised for discharging the earlier liabilities on account of buyer’s credit facility allowed by the foreign branches of Indian banks,” the CBI official said.
“With regard to FLCs, they were initially opened for small amounts by creating purported entries in Core Banking Solution system and sending the letters to overseas through Swift messages. The officials then enhanced the value of FLCs manifold by issuing amendments through Swift system without recording the same in the CBS. These overseas branches discounted the bills submitted by the beneficiary suppliers.”
The three companies named in FIR have 36 subsidiaries, 17 in Bombay and one in Hyderabad. All these India located firms searched on Friday in the CBI raids. Other subsidiaries are located abroad.
Meanwhile the CBI also questioned four PNB officials – Bechu B. Tewari (ex-Chief Manager of PNB Nariman Point branch), Sanjay Kumar Prasad (presently DGM and Ex-AGM Brady House branch of PNB), Mohinder Kumar Sharma (Chief Manager and former concurrent auditor) and Karat.
The agency, which has formed a crack team under a DIG rank officer to investigate the bank scam, has mentioned 143 LoUs and and 224 FLCs in the FIR issued by Indian bank’s overseas branches to the three companies.
Gitanjali’s LoUs amount Rs 2,144 crore, Gili’s to Rs 566 crore and Nakshatra’s to Rs 321 crore while the FLCs are of the three are Rs 575 crore, Rs 625 crore and Rs 598 crore respectively.