Billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi has claimed that Punjab National Bank’s overzealousness hampered his ability to clear his dues, PTI reported on Monday. In a letter to the bank management dated February 15 – a day after the bank made the irregularities public – the jewellery designer alleged that his companies owed much less than the amount that the bank has cited.
“The erroneously cited liability resulted in a media frenzy, which led to immediate search and seizure of operations, which in turn resulted in Firestar International and Firestar Diamond International effectively ceasing to be going-concerns,” Modi said in the letter, according to PTI. “This, thereby, jeopardised our ability to discharge the dues of the group to the banks.”
Modi is accused of cheating Punjab National Bank of Rs 11,380 crore. The scam involves bank officials allegedly handing out fake Letters of Understanding on behalf of companies associated with him, which allowed him to access massive foreign exchange loans that were completely unsecured.
“In the anxiety to recover your dues immediately, despite my offer [on February 13, a day before the public announcement and on February 15], your actions have destroyed my brand and the business and have now restricted your ability to recover all the dues, leaving a trail of unpaid debts,” he said.
Modi claimed that the liability of the Nirav Modi Group is not Rs 11,000 crore, as cited by the bank. He said he had urged the bank to allow him to sell Firestar Group or its assets to recover the dues, but all his bank accounts were frozen and assets sealed or seized. “This could have helped reduce/discharge the debt to the banking system,” he said.
The businessman added that over the years, Punjab National Bank has been earning bank charges worth crores of rupees on the buyers credit facility extended to the three partner firms. He requested the bank to be fair and support his efforts to “make good all the amounts that are found due by my group to all banks”.
Modi also claimed that his brother, uncle and wife were wrongly named in the complaint. He asked the bank to allow him to pay the salaries of 2,200 employees from the balance lying in the current accounts of his firms. “Whatever may be the consequences I may face for my actions, the haste was, in my humble submission, unwarranted,” he concluded.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had said that the bank had filed two complaints against Modi and a jewellery firm for the fraudulent transactions. The agency has also asked Interpol to help locate the billionaire jewellery designer, who is believed to have left India in January.