A day after state-owned lender Punjab National Bank (PNB) detected fraudulent transactions worth $ 1,771.7 million (over Rs 11,000 crore) in its mid-corporate branch at Brady House, South Mumbai, in a case related to billionaire diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, the bank’s Managing Director Sunil Mehta said the Finance Ministry was taking stock of the matter on a day-to-day basis and it “will not spare anyone” involved in the wrongdoing.
Addressing media persons in Mumbai, Mehta said, “PNB has the capability and capacity to overcome this crisis. In response to our registered FIR, the Enforcement Directorate is conducting raids across all groups and establishments who were involved in the act. All necessary documents have been seized. Steps are being taken to protect the financial interest of the bank.”
The PNB chief explained how the incident came to light after he received a “vague email” from customers, involved in the fraud, about settling the dues and the bank sought a detailed response. “The fraud started in 2011 but it was detected in third week of January. We investigated the case and brought it under the notice of regulatory and law enforcement agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), on January 29. An FIR was registered on January 30. We will not spare anyone invoved in the fraudulent practice.” He added that the transactions were detected in only one branch and no other branches were involved.
Modi, along with his wife Ami Modi, brother Nishal Modi and maternal uncle Mehul Choksi were booked by the CBI on January 31 for allegedly cheating PNB of over Rs 280 crore in 2017. They were booked under sections of the IPC for criminal conspiracy and cheating and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.
Sources in the CBI said the four accused had left India even before the bank had filed its complaint with the agencies. The CBI has now issued a look-out circular against them.
Meanwhile, the Congress party launched a scathing attack against the Centre and said it had become a norm for the Narendra Modi government to let businessmen and corporates run away with public money. Nirav Modi is believed to have left the country on January 1.
Addressing the jeweller as ‘Chhota Modi’, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters, “Was he tipped off like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya to escape by someone within the government? Has it become the norm for letting people run away with public money?”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi also took an apparent dig at PM Modi and tweeted “a guide to looting India”. Gandhi listed four points and said the first involved “hugging PM Modi” and “be seen with him in Davos”. Next, he said the diamond jeweller used the clout to “steal” Rs 12, 000 crore and “slip out of the country like Mallya”.
However, Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the case was an outcome of the actions of the previous UPA government. “Whatever is coming out is the result of actions of the previous UPA govt. Action will be taken against the guilty,” she told reporters in Shillong.
Several raids were conducted across multiple properties of Modi across the country by the Enforcement Directorate earlier during the day. Around 60 officials from the agency raided at least 12 properties including Modi’s jewellery showrooms as well as his corporate office in Mumbai, apart from locations in Surat and Delhi. The ED also sealed his house in Worli in Mumbai.