The Central Board of Direct Taxes on Sunday refuted reports that files on fugitive businessman Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in connection with the Rs 13,000-crore fraud case involving the Punjab National Bank were damaged in a fire, IANS reported.

On June 1, a massive fire, had broken out at Mumbai’s Scindia House in Ballard Estate. The building houses the offices of the Income Tax department and the Debt Recovery Tribunal. This tribunal housed documents and evidence related to many cases, including the Nirav Modi loan default. The fire was put out after about 12 hours.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes said the documents connected with the investigation into the scam were transferred to assessment units that were not affected by the fire. “News reports have been appearing in some sections of the media alleging that records and documents relating to investigation into the Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi case have been destroyed in the Scindia House fire,” it said in a statement. “It is hereby clarified the said reports are completely false and misdirected. Apprehensions about any loss or damage to the records and documents relating to the Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi case in the said fire at the IT Office are, therefore, misplaced.”

On Sunday, citing news reports, the Congress claimed the fire was “convenient”. “In a rather convenient turn of events, a fire burned papers that the Income Tax Department had on Nirav Modi, the man who was photographed with PM Modi before he went on the run after pulling off the largest banking fraud in India,” the party said in a tweet.

The PNB scam

The Punjab National Bank informed the Bombay Stock Exchange on February 14 that it had detected “fraudulent and unauthorised transactions” worth Rs 11,380 crore at its Brady House branch in South Mumbai. The bank revised this figure to Rs 12,703 crore and later to around Rs 13,645 crore.

A few officials of the public sector bank had allegedly issued fraudulent Letters of Undertaking – essentially letters of credit telling others banks that it would meet a customer’s liabilities – to Modi’s companies. Several bank officials have been arrested and are under investigation.