The Central Bureau of Investigation on Saturday arrested Punjab National Bank’s former Deputy General Manager Gokulnath Shetty, single window operator Manoj Kharat and authorised signatory of the Nirav Modi Group of Firms Hemant Bhat. A special CBI court in Mumbai sent them to police custody till March 3, ANI reported.
These are the first arrests in connection with the bank’s Rs 11,380-crore fraud.
In its remand application, the CBI estimated the fraud involving billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi at Rs 6,000 crore, much more than Rs 280 crore the bank had first reported, ANI reported. The agency also said that Bhat was not cooperating in the investigation.
Shetty and Kharat were found to be working with Nirav Modi, reported News18. On Friday, the CBI had visited Shetty’s house in Malad on Friday but he was not there. The agency then said “he was untraceable since few days”.
They were taken into custody by the agency in connection with its FIR registered on January 31 against billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi, his companies and his uncle Mehul Choski, officials told PTI.
Kharat’s lawyer claimed that his client was just a “clerk” and typed letters under Shetty’s pressure, ANI reported.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate continued raiding locations related to Modi in its money laundering probe. The agency said it had seized diamonds and jewellery worth Rs 25 crore, taking the total value of seized material to Rs 5,674 crore, PTI reported. The raids are expected to continue on Sunday.
The CBI also searched Punjab National Bank’s Brady House Branch in Mumbai, and questioned at least six bank officials.
The Punjab National Bank had on Friday suspended eight of its employees, taking the number of suspended employees to 18. These staffers reportedly helped billionaire jeweller Modi carry out fraudulent transactions.
The CBI on Friday sought Interpol’s help to locate Modi, his wife Ami Modi, brother Nishal Modi and uncle Choksi while the Ministry of External Affairs suspended the validity of the passports Modi and Choksi for four weeks.
The CBI also filed a fresh FIR against Choksi and Gitanjali Gems, the company he promoted. The FIR is based on a complaint that the Punjab National Bank filed. In the new FIR, it has mentioned 143 Letters of Understanding – bank guarantees issued for overseas import payments – and 224 foreign letters of credit. The agency, in its FIR of January 31, had mentioned 150 fraudulent Letters of Understanding.
The CBI said there are three main companies named in the FIR and they have 36 subsidiaries. Out of these 36 companies, 17 are in Mumbai, one in Hyderabad and the rest are based abroad.
Singhvi threatens defamation against Nirmala Sitharaman
Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress continued to blame each other for the scam, Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi on Saturday threatened to file civil and criminal defamation cases against Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for spreading “ill-considered, ignorant and patently false allegations” against his family. He denied any links of his family with Modi and Choksi, and claimed the Bharatiya Janata Party was playing “cheap politics”, PTI reported.
Sitharaman had alleged earlier in the day that the Nirav Modi-run Firestar Diamond International had taken on lease a property of Adwait Holdings, a firm in which Singhvi’s wife is a director. “What is important [is] that the premises has been used by Firestar Diamond International,” she had said.
“Neither Adwait nor my family has any interest with Modi or the company,” Singhvi said. “Last August, the company gave notice to quit tenancy and vacated Parel Kamla Mills premises in December 2017.”
He added: “Sensationalism, ignorance and falsehood has exceeded all limits in this irresponsible charge.”