The CBI is likely to chargesheet two serving and one former senior officer of Punjab National Bank with 19 others arrested in the alleged Rs 13,400 crore fraud involving diamantaire Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi. Sources said the first chargesheet is likely to be filed Tuesday in the case registered against Nirav Modi.
Between January and March, the CBI filed three FIRs in the case — against Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and also against Modi’s company Firestar Diamonds.
“In 2016, a fraud of a similar nature was detected where the accused persons in criminal conspiracy with branch officials siphoned off bank funds under the garb of letters of comfort, in favour of a Hong Kong-based company, purportedly issued by the Chandigarh branch of a nationalised bank to the overseas branches of two other nationalised banks including PNB,” said an official.
“Based on these fraudulently issued letters of comfort, these banks issued buyers’ credit to the account of the accused companies abroad. After the detection of the fraud, the banks including PNB were advised by the RBI to maintain due diligence, however, the said senior PNB officials both serving and retired failed to do so and therefore they will be chargesheeted.”
The CBI is likely to file the first set of chargesheets this week just before the 90-day period to file charges against those arrested ends. This to deter the prospects of the accused seeking bail on the ground that the probe agency failed to file its chargesheet against them in the stipulated period as mandated under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), sources told The Indian Express.
“While we have recovered documents including original applications for seeking loans through 130 of the 144 Letters of Undertaking (LoU) mentioned in the first FIR, the charge sheet will concentrate only on half-a-dozen LoUs and an equal number of Foreign Letters of Credit (FLC) as we have been able to collect evidence to prove that they were fraudulent,” said an official.
“The rest will be covered in the supplementary chargesheets. In the chargesheet we will mention that the probe will continue under Section 173 (8) of the CrPC.”
The agency has also been able to piece together how funds raised through LoUs and FLCs were routed through offshore firms, which were shown as ‘importers’ but are suspected to be shell companies floated by Modi and Choksi to reroute it to back to India either to square off the old LoUs or buy properties.
The agency made its first arrest on February 17 including of the alleged key accused Gokulnath Shetty (former deputy General manager of PNB), Manoj Kharat (single window operator of PNB) and Hemant Bhat (authorised signatory of Modi’s company). On February 20, it made its first high profile arrest by arresting Vipul Ambani, president (finance) of Firestar International.
The others arrested are Bechhu Tiwari (then chief manager in the Forex department of PNB), Yashwant Joshi (scale II manager in the Forex department), Praful Sawant (scale-I officer handling exports section), Manish Bosamiya (former AGM of operations in Firestar International Ltd owned by Modi), Miten Pandia (then Financial manager of Firestar), Sanjay Rambhia (auditor of Firestar), Aniyath Shiv Raman Nair (then director of Gili India Ltd, a Gitanjali Group firm owned by Choksi), Vipul Chitalia (VP banking operations of Gitanjali group).