The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probing the alleged Rs 13,400 crore fraud caused to Punjab National Bank (PNB) by wanted diamantaires, Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, on Monday filed its first chargesheet before the Special CBI court in Mumbai. The voluminous chargesheet names 25 accused including Usha Ananthasubramanian, MD & CEO of Allahabad Bank, two Executive Directors of PNB, Brahmaji Rao and Sanjeev Saran and its General Manager Nehal Ahad and Modi’s three firms – Stellar Diamonds, Solar Exports and Diamond R’ US.
This is first of the two chargesheets the agency plans to file in the case. The next chargesheet against Choksi, his firms and the arrested accused is likely to be filed on Wednesday, sources said.
Between January and March, the CBI had filed three FIRs in the case- against Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and third against Modi’s Firestar Diamonds.
“In 2016, a fraud of a similar nature was detected where the accused persons in criminal conspiracy with the branch officials siphoned off the bank funds under the garb of letter of comfort in favour of a Hong Kong-based company purportedly issued by the Chandigarh branch of a nationalised bank to the oversea branches of two other nationalised banks including PNB. Based on these fraudulently issued letters of comfort, these foreign banks issued buyers’ credit to the account of the accused companies abroad. Post the detection of the fraud, the banks including PNB were advised by RBI to maintain due diligence. However, the said senior PNB officials, both serving and retired, failed to do so and therefore they are chargesheeted,” said an official familiar to the probe.
The first set of chargesheets are being filed this week as the 90-day period to file a charge sheet against the arrested accused comes to an end. 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 of 90 days as mandated under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), sources told The Indian Express.
“While we have recovered documents including original applications for seeking loan through LoUs of over 130 of the 144 LoUs mentioned in the first FIR, the charge sheet concentrates only on half-a-dozen LoUs and an equal number of FLCs as we have been able to collect evidence to prove that they were fraudulent,” said an official. “ The rest would be covered in the supplementary charge sheets. In the charge sheet we would mention that the probe will continue under Section 173 (8) of the CrPC,” the official said.
The agency has also been able to piece together how the funds raised through LoUs and FLCs were routed through off-shore firms which were shown as ‘importers’ but are suspected to be shell companies floated by the uncle-nephew duo to reroute it to back to India either to square off the old LoUs or buy properties.
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