PNB crackdown widens


Rs 22-cr jewellery seized, 7 properties attached; 3 more PNB officers held

New Delhi, February 19

The crackdown on billionaire diamantaire Nirav Modi and uncle Mehul Choksi intensified today with the ED seizing jewellery worth Rs 22 crore, the I-T department attaching seven properties, and the CBI grilling four senior executives of his company and arresting three more Punjab National Bank officers.Central Vigilance Commissioner KV Chowdary met senior PNB and finance ministry officials in connection with the Rs 11,400-crore fraud case.n Enforcement Directorate chief Karnal Singh also flew down to Mumbai to review the PNB fraud-related anti-money laundering investigations, being conducted by a special team of the agency.The total value of gems and jewellery seized so far stands at Rs 5,671 crore.The Income Tax Department today attached seven properties of the Gitanjali group and its promoter Mehul Choksi in Mumbai.Official sources said ED sleuths searched Modi’s flat in the posh Samudra Mahal apartments in Worli.The Central probe agency also conducted searches at 38 other locations in several cities, including Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Thane, Kolkata, Delhi, Jammu, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Surat.While the ED is looking into the money laundering aspect of the Rs 11,400-crore scam, the CBI continued to focus on unravelling the mystery behind issuance of Letters of Understanding and Letters of Credit bypassing the bank’s regulatory mechanism.The agency today questioned Vipul Ambani, president (finance) of Modi’s Fire Star Diamond, its Chief Financial Officer Ravi Gupta, and executives Saurabh Sharma and Subhash Parab.It also intensified its search operation at the Brady Road branch of the PNB in Mumbai from where all the LOUs and LCs were issued, officials said.They said Ambani had been holding the position for over three years. It is believed he was aware of the financial transactions carried out by the company of the jeweller-businessman, who fled the country before the PNB reported the fraud.Ambani is understood to be a relative of late industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani.A CBI spokesperson said the PNB branch was briefly sealed early this morning to prevent any “possible tampering”. He said the seal and the notice were removed during the day.The CBI had yesterday started a search operation at the PNB branch, which is at the centre of the colossal banking fraud involving Modi and Choksi.The agency continued to question two arrested PNB officials and an authorised signatory of Nirav Modi’s company, the officials said. The probe agency has also started interrogating 13 other officials of the PNB, including general manager-level officers, they said.On the money laundering part, the ED obtained information from the whistleblower in the case who had said he had raised flags against Choksi’s loan in 2013. It has also sought PNB’s audit reports since 2011 from the RBI, they said.


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