PNB fraud: Gitanjali Group's vice president detained by CBI

Mehul Choksi the promoter of Gitanjali Group is accused in the PNB fraud along with billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi

Punjab National Bank Managing Director and CEO Sunil Mehta today appeared before the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) here after being summoned for recording his statement in connection with the Rs 12,636 crore fraud at the bank.

A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and IS Mehta issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate or ED on Firestar Diamond International Private Ltd's plea seeking direction to the agency to supply it several documents, including a copy of the search warrants.

The summons by the SFIO is in connection with the probe into the exposure of banks to the firms promoted by Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi who are allegedly at the centre of the Rs. 12,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.

According to court filings, the exposure to three companies controlled by Modi has been estimated at RS6,498 crore ($1 billion), while firms controlled by Choksi have been accused of defrauding the bank of Rs6,138 crore.

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday detained Vipul Chitalia, Vice-President, Banking Operations of Gitanjali Group at Mumbai Airport for his alleged involvement in the PNB scam.

Axis Bank in a filing to BSE said that its exposure to the Nirav Modi and Gitanjali groups of companies is "approximately Rs 200 crore".

A consortium of 31 banks had extended Rs5,280 crore working capital facility to Choksi's companies.

"SFIO has written to all the banks in the consortium and senior officials from the bank will have to explain under what circumstances the loans were sanctioned and whether collaterals were offered", sources added. Its exposure to the Gitanjali group, it said, is not the largest among the lenders in the consortium. "His popularity is no good for the country if he is unable to bring back to the country the people behind these huge bank scams", Azad said.

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The jewelers are accused of getting letters of undertaking (LoUs) based on fraudulent claims from PNB, which bank officials did not enter in their internal software to avoid scrutiny.

The CBI has alleged that Shetty, a retired deputy manager of PNB, fraudulently issued 143 LoUs. "The size of the fraud has now gone (up)...and the same is likely to go even higher", the CBI said in the court filing.

The PNB said that cases of circular transactions between Nirav Modi-promoted partnership firms Solar Exports, Stellar diamonds and Diamond R USA and Nirav Modi-promoted Firestar Group of companies - Firestar International Ltd (FIL) and Firestar Diamonds International Pvt Ltd (FDIPL) - came to its notice.

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