DIAMOND sorters earning Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000 a month were directors in the three top creditors who lent Rs 2,500 crore to Gitanjali Gems, according to investigative agencies probing the Rs 13,400-crore alleged fraudulent transactions at the state-owned Punjab National Bank.
Sources said that these directors of the three operational creditors, Asian Impex, Premier Intertrade and Iris Mercantile, “are people of meagre means” who used to discount cheques issued by Gitanjali Gems.
According to bankruptcy norms, an operational creditor is a person or entity to whom an operational debt is owed and includes any person to whom such debt has been legally assigned or transferred. They are suppliers of goods or services to any company or operational debtor.
Typically, shell companies or companies that exist only on paper are used for cheque discounting. These shell companies, which have no genuine business, give bogus bills of services provided to another company, say, ABC. ABC then issues cheques in the name of the shell company towards payment of such bills.
The shell company deposits these cheques in its bank account and returns the money so received either in cash or through cheques to other shell firms controlled by ABC after retaining a commission, typically of one per cent.
Cheque discounting is typically used by companies for generating immediate liquidity. Firms issue cheques against bogus bills generated by front companies controlled by cheque discounters. The cheque discounters then deposit the cheque and hand over cash to the party after deducting their commission.
Probe agencies have recorded the statements of these directors last month. All these directors worked from Opera House in South Mumbai as diamond sorters, said a source who did not want to be named.
“Investigators suspect that these firms were indirectly controlled by Choksi and may have been used to divert loans,” the source said.
According to the annual report of Gitanjali Gems, trade payables to its creditors increased to Rs 3,859 crore as on March 31, 2017 from Rs 1548 crore a year ago.
These trade payables include creditors for goods of about Rs 3,815 crore and creditors for expenses of about Rs 43.96 crore.
When contacted, Sanjay Abbot, lawyer representing Mehul Choksi, promoter of Gitanjali Gems, said: “I cannot comment on this as I am not aware of the issue.”
The Indian Express was not able to contact the three firms for a response.
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi have come under the scanner of multiple investigating agencies such as the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, Serious Fraud Investigation Office and Income tax department in connection with the alleged fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) issued through PNB.
Recently, in reply to a Parliament question, Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla said that the total number of LoUs issued by PNB to the companies of Nirav Modi, his relatives and the Nirav Modi Group are 1,213, and to Mehul Choksi, his relatives and the Gitanjali Group, are 377.
Both Choksi and Modi left India in January, a few weeks before the scam at PNB broke.