THE CBI has alleged in its chargesheet in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud that six persons, most of them illiterate and unemployed, were made partners in firms owned by diamantaire Nirav Modi. The agency has claimed that this was done to “disown liabilities and wrongdoings” by the firms.
In the chargesheet against Nirav and 24 others, CBI has recorded statements of six men, all Gujarat residents, who have claimed that they were not aware of the consequences of signing on papers pertaining to the firms.
CBI has said one Shailesh Chhotala, who worked with Nirav’s firm Firestar International Pvt Ltd, was asked by Nirav’s brother Neeshal to help CEO of the group, Mihir Bhansali, to arrange for six persons for the job of transporting diamonds. Chhotala allegedly got in touch with his relative Alpesh Kalsariya and asked him to arrange the men. Alpesh handed over identification documents of the six and a meeting was held with them in Surat with then general manager of Firestar. Of the six, Oghadbhai Kalsaria and Laljibhai Kalsaria were named partners in Nirav’s firm Diamond R US, while Mohanbhai Ladumor and Manojbhai Sankhat were named partners in Stellar Diamonds. Maganbhai Jilala and his nephew Divyesh Ladumor, were named in Solar Exports.
Divyesh told the CBI that he was working as a lecturer and had left his job to prepare for government job exams. As he was in need of money, he sought employment from a relative. Most of the six men found the work through a relative and were told that only their signatures will be taken on documents and cheques. Jilala told the CBI that he was in the business of collecting saris and designing and was offered the job with Rs 8,000 being offered in cash with the documents being brought by a Firestar employee.
“My signatures were taken on various documents/cheques in running vehicles and in a hurry. I state that, all of us are illiterate, hence not aware of consequences of signing blank cheques, partnerships, documents, etc,” the men have said in statements to the CBI.
As per their statements, the employee of Firestar, Pankaj Mehta, took their signatures on documents pertaining to the firms and their accounts in a bank named Surat People Co-op Bank Limited.
The chargesheet includes the statement of a clerk employed with Surat People Co-op Bank Limited at Sachin, Surat. The clerk has told CBI that a current account of Stellar Diamond was opened on August 5, 2016 with six holders named, including Nirav Family Trust, Nirav Modi Family Trust and two of these six men. Another account of Diamonds R US was opened on August 10, 2016 with five account holders, including the Nirav Modi Trust, and two men.
The partnership sharing pattern was 0.50 per cent share each to Nirav Modi Family Trust and Nirav Modi Trust and 49.50 per cent each to the other partners. The father of Alpesh, who had introduced these six men to the employee of Firestar, said he committed suicide in May 22, 2017. The reason, he said, was not known.
CBI has found that one of the main accused, Gokulnath Shetty, then deputy manager of PNB, received Rs 97 lakh in commission for negotiating buyer credit rates in 366 transactions for Gitanjali Group firms from foreign branches of Indian banks. CBI has found this commission was sent to accounts of Shetty and his family members through accounts of 11 people, most of them friends, drivers and acquaintances of the owner of a financial firm known to Shetty. The owner of the financial firm used to give cash to these people and obtain signed blank cheques from them, which were later used to transfer money to the accounts of Shetty and his family.
For instance, cargo agent Tito Dasgupta and his wife have issued 15 cheques in favor of the Shetty family. In their statement, Dasgupta has said that he and his wife gave blank cheques to the owner of the financial firm, who in turn used it to transfer Rs 9 lakh to the Shetty family. Similarly, Tushar Pawar, an employee in a courier firm, has given blank cheques to the financial firm. Ganapat Salvi, a peon has issued four cheques in favour of the Shetty family, totalling Rs 1 Lakh. Subhashchandra Yadav, a driver from Uttar Pradesh has also issued 13 cheques worth Rs 12 lakh to Shetty.