As Fallout of PNB Scam Continues, Questions Raised over Repayment and Nirav Modi’s Whereabouts

The CBI has issued a ‘look-out’ circular for the billionaire jeweller while the Punjab National Bank chief has said that Modi has been asked to come and submit a repayment plan in person.

New Delhi: The Punjab National Bank (PNB) likely discovered the true extent of its Rs 11,000 crore fraudulent transactions scam in the same week that billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi – whose companies play a key role in the controversy – was part of the Indian CEO contingent in Davos for the World Economic Forum.

Early morning news reports on Thursday indicated that the jeweller-CEO had fled the country before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed its first FIR in the last week of January, 2018.

PTI quoted anonymous officials and reported that Nirav Modi had left the country on January 1, while his wife and business partner (Mehul Choksi, the promoter of the Gitanjali jewellery chain) departed on January 6.

The news agency also pointed out that Indian enforcement agencies, including the CBI, had issued a “look-out circular” to inform them about the movement of the accused.

This news prompted multiple people to point out on Twitter that the billionaire jeweller was part of the Indian CEO meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and key Indian bureaucracy at the Davos summit on January 23, just days before the first FIR was filed.

The case itself, however, as pointed out by Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar dates back to credit guarantees issued in 2011.

PNB press conference

In a media interaction organised on Thursday afternoon, Punjab National Bank’s chief declared that the bank had the capability to resolve the problem.

Two key questions that have been circulating over the last two days is to how a repayment plan will be worked out, and how liability would be assumed amongst the various banks involved in the controversy. As experts have pointed out, if Modi pays up that will solve the problem.

If he doesn’t though, PNB is ultimately on the hook as the issuer bank – with other banks like Allahabad Bank having raised a repayment demand through the fraudulently-issued guarantees issued by former PNB officials. iI is currently unclear how much Nirav Modi plans on paying back.

To this, Punjab National Bank MD and CEO Sunil Mehta pointed out that the billionaire jeweller had written to the bank last week about a repayment plan.

However, Mehta added that the bank has currently requested Modi and the accused to appear personally and submit a written plan that details a scheduled timeline of repayment.

Congress lashes out

The Congress party came down heavily on the union government for a series of such bank fraud cases.

“First, Lalit Modi escaped India. Vijay Mallya escaped India. ABG’s Rishi Agarwal escaped India. Now, we are told that Nirav Modi has also escaped India. A complaint was filed to PMO about the entrie fraud being perpetuated as early as on 26th July, 2016. Yet, no action was taken either by PMO or any other authority. Bank lost the money and the accused escaped.

Alleging that over 30 banks have been affected by a series of bank frauds, the Congress said, “Under Modi government, entire banking sector’s risk management system, fraud detection ability, and the regulatory mechanisms have been severely compromised.”

While taking a shot at the prime minister for failing to act against multiple complaints against Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, it asked, “How was the entire system bypassed? How did the fraud escape the eyes of all the auditors and investigators? Does it point to active complicity at the highest level? Who is protecting Nirav Modi/Mehul Choksi?”

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  • Anjan Basu

    You cannot fault Rajiv Kumar, for sure. He knows which side of the bread is buttered, and so, unsolicited, he jumps to the govt’s defence by invoking 2011. But deafening silence from the FM, the RBI, the Finance Secretary — not to mention the PM for whom, understandably, Rs 11k Crore is a measly little sum totally undeserving of his attention. He is busy doing what he does best: address election meetings where, other than subtly stoking communal fires, he speaks grandly of Vikash. Surely his Vikash model has stood Nirav Modi in good stead, and as far as the ordinary Indian citizen is concerned, our PM couldn’t care less, as every Bharatiya happens to know by now. So the field is left open for the usual buffoonery of Ravishankar Prasad and a pugnacious (though completely witless) intervention by the Raksha Mantri. Nobody has apparently suggested to Nirmala Sitaraman that she had better take care of the country’s porous borders — which happen to be under her charge and are leaking all the while — rather than talking about things she doesn’t have the foggiest idea about. But, then, who will advise whom about what in the madhouse that Modi’s India has turned into?