₹11.4Kcr fraud hits PNB amid Nirav Modi probe
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: State-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) said it has unearthed fraudulent transactions of around ₹11,400 crore in one of its branches in Mumbai and filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the fraud amid concern that the contagion could spread to other banks.
According to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified, the case pertains to jeweller Nirav Modi, who is already being investigated by the federal investigation agency in connection with an earlier complaint by the same bank. The complaint was about fraudulent transactions of ₹280 crore, although the bank said at the time that it was checking if the magnitude of the swindle was more.
Modi did not respond to an email seeking comment.
PNB managing director and CEO Sunil Mehta didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
The chief executive of a stateowned bank said on condition of anonymity that Modi had written to bankers offering to repay all his dues to them by selling his flagship company Firestar Diamond, which is valued at ₹6,435 crore, in the next three to six months. PNB’S shares fell 10% on Wednesday. The finance ministry moved swiftly to contain the crisis, and issued an advisory late on Tuesday asking all banks to review all their large exposures (or total loans to one customer). The ministry has also asked the ED, which investigates frauds involving foreign currency and transactions, to investigate the matter.
The fraud was perpetrated by employees of PNB who allegedly issued authorised so-called letters of understanding (basically, guarantees) that helped Modi’s companies raise credit.
It is believed that they did so without making any entries in the bank’s books or recording them in the core banking system.
The international branches of many other Indian banks — it is believed as many as 30—including Allahabad Bank, Axis Bank Ltd, State Bank of India (SBI), Union Bank of India and some foreign banks loaned money to Modi’s companies based on these fraudulent guarantees.
A Punjab National Bank branch in Mumbai.