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CBI arrests three more bank officials in PNB fraud case

The CBI is conducting raids on their residences located in Navi Mumbai, Andheri and Dombivili, besides scrutinising travel records of the billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2018 18:11 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PNB fraud,Punjab national Bank,CBI
Enforcement Directorate conducts raids at jewellery shops in Mumbai on Monday in connection to the probe into the Punjab National Bank fraud.(PTI Photo)

The CBI on Monday arrested three more officials of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) in connection with its probe into the alleged Rs 11,400-crore fraud case involving businessman Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle, Mehul Choksi.

The officials were accused of overlooking allegedly illegal acts committed by other key accused earlier held in the case.

“The CBI has arrested Bechhu Tiwari, chief manager of the bank’s forex department; Yashwant Joshi, scale two manager in the same department; and Praful Sawant, scale one officer in the export department,” said an agency spokesperson.

Three people – retired deputy manager Gokulnath Shetty, suspended single window operator Manoj Kharat and Nirav Modi’s alleged accountant Hemant Bhatt – were earlier arrested in the case.

The spokesperson said Tiwari was responsible for supervising the work of Shetty and his manager to ensure the entry of authorised SWIFT messages only from the PNB’s core banking system (CBS). The official seemed to have full knowledge of the retired deputy manager’s activities, he added.

SWIFT is a messaging system used for inter-bank transactions.

The spokesperson said Joshi was also responsible for supervising Shetty, and ensuring that SWIFT and CBS entries were filed on a daily basis. “It is alleged that Joshi did not take any action despite having complete knowledge of Shetty’s activities either. The third person, Sawant, was responsible for checking SWIFT messages every day and reporting on them,” he added.

The CBI is conducting raids on their residences located in Navi Mumbai, Andheri and Dombivili, besides scrutinising travel records of the billionaire jewellery designer.

Earlier in the day, the agency questioned Modi’s personal assistant and travel desk in-charge regarding his whereabouts. “The CBI is trying to find out where Modi has been since he left the country on January 1,” a person familiar with the matter said. The businessman’s wife Ami, brother Neeshal and maternal uncle Choksi are also absconding.

The CBI has sought Interpol’s assistance in tracking Modi’s whereabouts. Five more aides of Modi, including his vice-president (finance) Vipul Ambani and chief financial officer Ravi Gupta were also examined on Monday. The agency spokesperson said the PNB’s Brady House branch, where the scam took place, was briefly sealed early this morning to prevent any possible tampering. The seal and the notice were removed later.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), meanwhile, is looking into the money-laundering aspect of the probe. The agency searched Modi’s Mumbai residence, besides 38 other locations in Mumbai, Pune, Surat, Thane, Aurangabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Jammu, Lucknow and Bengaluru, on Monday. It also seized fresh assets worth Rs 22 crore – including precious stones, cash and gold – from the homes and offices of Modi and Choksi. This has taken the total seizure in the case to Rs 5,716 crore.

“The ED will now move for formal attachment of the seized assets under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,” said an official on the condition of anonymity. The agency also spoke to former Allahabad Bank director Dinesh Dubey, who was allegedly forced to resign for refusing to give a loan to Choksi.

The Income Tax department, for its part, attached seven properties in the case – taking the total number to 36.

First Published: Feb 19, 2018 23:28 IST