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PNB fraud: CBI detains Gitanjali Group’s vice-president Vipul Chitalia at Mumbai airport

The Rs 12,600-crore fraud was allegedly perpetrated by billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, the promoter of Gitanjali Gems

business Updated: Mar 06, 2018 12:04 IST
Vijay Kumar Yadav
Vijay Kumar Yadav
Hindustan Times
PNB fraud,Punjab National Bank,Gitanjali Gems
Gijantjali Gems office in Mumbai’s Andheri area.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday detained Vipul Chitalia, vice-president, banking operations of Gitanjali Group of Companies at Mumbai airport, amid ongoing investigations into the Rs12,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.

Acting on a tip-off, CBI officials apprehended Chitalia when he flew back to the city from Bangkok. From the airport, he was taken directly to the CBI office in Bandra-Kurla Complex.

As he is a senior executive in the banking operations department at Gitanjali, it is highly likely that he had complete knowledge of the criminal activities linked to obtaining fraudulent Letter of Undertakings (LoUs) from PNB, CBI sources added.

“We are questioning him to ascertain his role. We are checking if he was a signatory authority at any stage while obtaining the LoUs fraudulently. If yes, we want to find out whose instructions he was following. Once his role is ascertained, he will be arrested,” said a CBI official, on condition of anonymity. “If it is found that he had no role in the fraud, he will be let off after interrogation.”

The CBI has, so far, made 18 arrests in the case, after two FIRs were registered against Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi. Among the arrested are retired and serving officials of the bank and senior executives linked to Modi’s and Choksi’s firms.

Once the probe suggested that Modi had been involved in money laundering, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) also got involved; it has conducted around 200 raids at various premises linked to Modi, Choksi and their firms across the country, and seized immovable and movable assets worth a total of Rs 6,100 crore.

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) received a go-ahead recently from the Centre to prosecute Modi in a 2014 case, for allegedly exporting cut and polished diamonds to various countries by overvaluing them to not only evade duty, but also to avail benefits for firms operating out of Special Economic Zones. There are indications that Modi not only evaded duty but that through his firms he laundered huge amounts of money to other countries, a senior DRI official said, requesting anonymity.

First Published: Mar 06, 2018 11:27 IST