CBI chargesheet blames PNB officials in Gitanjali Group scam

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Mumbai, May 16 (IANS) Putting the blame squarely on the top officials of the Punjab National Bank (PNB), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a second chargesheet in the Rs 7,080.86 crore fraud case against absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi, his Gitanjali Group of companies and senior past and present officials of the PNB, here on Wednesday, officials said.

The chargesheet was filed in the Special CBI Court in Mumbai, naming a total of 18 accused, exactly 90 days after the CBI first registered the complaint on February 15 this year, shortly after the scam was admitted by the PNB.

The CBI said it found during investigations that the fraud was perpetrated despite the knowledge of senior PNB officials who failed to implement the circulars and caution notices issued by the Reserve Bank of India regarding safeguarding the SWIFT operations, and instead, misrepresenting the factual position to the RBI.

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The second chargesheet comes two days after the CBI lodged its first chargesheet against fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, besides former and serving PNB officials in the Rs 13,000 crore-plus fraud case.

The PNB, however in its BSE filing said, they were yet to receive the copy of the chargesheet.

The agency registered the first FIR on January 31 against Nirav Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal and uncle Choksi along with others following the January 29 complaint by Deputy General Manager of PNB’s Zonal office in Mumbai.

The CBI registered two more FIRs subsequently. Most of the accused are common to both the FIRs.

While the chargesheet filed on Monday was based on the first FIR, the second chargesheet filed on Wednesday is based on the second FIR.

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According to the CBI’s second chargesheet, between 2015-2017, the accused persons hatched a criminal conspiracy and defrauded the PNB to the tune of Rs 7,080.86 crore by fraudulently issuing Letters of Undertaking to overseas banks.

These LoUs were issued to obtain Buyer’s Credit and also issuing Foreign Letters of Credit in favour of the three companies belonging to Choksi, without any sanctioned limit or cash margin and without making entries in the PNB’s CBS system.

The CBI said that PNB ex-Deputy General Manager Gokulnath Shetty at the flagship Brady House Branch, had allegedly taken bribes from the diamond company for issuing the fraudulent LoUs.

Besides Shetty, the chargesheet named the PNB’s then Managing Director and CEO Usha Ananthasubramanian, two Executive Directors K.V. Brahmaji Rao and Sanjiv Sharan, International Banking Division General Manager Nehal Ahad, officials Manoj H. Karat, Bechu B. Tiwari, Yashwant T. Joshi, Prafful P. Sawant, and Mohinderkumar B. Sharma.

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It has also named Gitanjali Gems Ltd., Gili India Ltd., Nakshatra Brand Ltd., Mehul C. Choksi as Managing Director of Gitanjali Gems Ltd., the company’s employees Aniyath S. Nair, Nitin Sahi, Kapil Khandelwal and Vipul C. Chitalia.

In this matter, the CBI had raided 52 premises, arrested several of the accused, seized voluminous documents and examined a large number of witnesses.

So far, 15 people have been arrested, though the prime accused including Modi and Choksi are still absconding, in what is billed as the biggest ever scam on a public sector bank in recent times.

–IANS

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