PNB fraud case: Nirav Modi left India on January 1; lookout notice issued

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New Delhi: Billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, involved in Punjab National Bank’s multi-crore fraud case left the country on January 1 this year, much before the first complaint reached CBI, highly placed officials have confirmed.

CBI received the complaint from PNB on January 29 and issued lookout circular against him after registering the first FIR on January 31, the officials added.

Official sources further said that Nirav Modi’s wife Ami, an American citizen, left India on January 6, his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi left the country on January 4 and his brother Nishal Modi, a Belgian citizen, left India on January 1. CBI issued lookout circulars against all accused on January 31.

State-owned Punjab National Bank on Wednesday said that it had detected a $1.77 billion (about Rs 11,400 crore) scam where Nirav Modi allegedly acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking from a branch in Mumbai to secure overseas credit from other Indian lenders.

The Enforcement Directorate sleuths swooped down on at least ten premises of entities involved in the case early this morning.

The premises raided by the ED here include Modi’s residence in Kurla, his jewellery boutique in Kala Ghoda area, three company locations in Bandra and Lower Parel, three premises in Surat in Gujarat and Modi’s showrooms in Chanakyapuri and Defence Colony in Delhi.

The ED had filed a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after going through a CBI FIR registered early this month.

It is understood that the ED also went through the PNB complaint that was made out against Modi and others.

The agency, they said, would probe if the allegedly defrauded bank funds were laundered and these proceeds of crime were subsequently used by the accused to create illegal assets and black money.

PNB MD and CEO Sunil Mehta has said that the bank “will not spare anyone” involved in the wrongdoing.

“We are known for clean banking. The fraud started in 2011. We have brought it under the notice of regulatory and law enforcement agencies as soon as we came to know about it. We will not spare anyone involved in the fraudulent practice,” Mehta told reporters in the hurriedly called press meet on Thursday.

The PNB chief said the fraud was detected on January 25th and was reported to the investigative agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation on January 29th.

He said he had received a “vague email” from the customers involved in the fraudulent transaction about settling the dues and the bank had asked them to send their detailed response. He said the transactions were detected in only one branch and no other branches were involved.

“We have not only lodged the complaint against the culprits, we have also lodged the complaint against our staff who were involved in the matter,” Mehta said.

(With agency inputs)

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