On a day when customers of the Punjab National Bank were worried about the $1.77 billion (Rs 11,300 crore) fraud at a branch in Mumbai, and media looking for details on the development purported by “a few select account holders with their apparent connivance,” leading to a 10 per cent crash in its share price, the bank issued a press release.
The release, however, was not about the details of the fraud. It had extensive details of the All India PNB Inter Zone Sports & Cultural meet 2017-18 that was organised with “gaiety and enthusiasm” between February 10, 2018 and February 13, 2018, a day before the bank informed the stock exchanges about the fraud.
While the sports and cultural meet was inaugurated by Sunil Mehta, MD and CEO of the bank on February 10 in the presence of three executive directors, chief vigilance officer and other senior officials of the bank, the MD, ED, CVO and other officials were also present for the closing ceremony on Tuesday, February 13. Although the bank did not issue any release on the fraud, in the statement issued to the stock exchanges, PNB said, “The Bank has detected some fraudulent and unauthorised transactions (messages) in one of its branch in Mumbai for the benefit of a few select account holders with their apparent connivance…. The quantum of such transactions is $1771.69 mln (approx). The matter is already referred to law enforcement agencies to examine and book the culprits as per law of the land.”
When The Indian Express tried to reach some senior PNB officials during the day, seeking details on the fraud, one said , “We have no details,” while others did not take calls.
The banks release on the sports and cultural meet, however, had all details of the event. It said, “Staff members from all the Zones across the country participated with enthusiasm…. More than 450 participants from 13 zones and Head Office of the Bank participated in these activities. The events continued for 4 days from 10.02.2018 to 13.02.2018.” The release further said that during the event PNB launched a portal named “Lead the Parivartan”, which it said is a big transformation exercise to keep pace with the changing environment.