PNB scam accused sent in 14-day police custody

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PNB scam accused sent in 14-day police custody
PNB scam accused sent in 14-day police custody

Mumbai : A Special CBI Court on Saturday remanded in police custody till March 3 the three accused arrrested in the over Rs 11,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam.

These are retired PNB Deputy Manager Gokulnath Shetty, Single Window Operator Manoj Kharat, and authorised signatory of prime accused Nirav Modi's group companies Hemant Bhatt.

Seeking police remand for the maximum period of the accused, a Central Bureau of Investigation's counsel said investigators need to recover certain important documents and records pertaining to the case, unravel the modus operandi of the fraudsters and zero in on the exact magnitude of the crime.

The CBI contended that the fraud is estimated to be around Rs 6,000 crore, much more than the Rs 280 crore reported by the PNB, which has played havoc with the country's banking system.

Moreover, it said, accused Kharat was reportedly not cooperating with investigators and hence their custodial interrogation was required.

The Special Court observed that the charges leveled against the accused were "very serious" and sent them in police custody.

Kharat's lawyer Kudrat Shaikh said his client was merely a Clerk who drafted letters under pressure from his superior Shetty.

Accordingly, he had no role to play in the scam, he said.

The three accused were the first ones to be arrested in the sensational case by the CBI from different parts of Mumbai and Raigad.

Besides, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has named 10 other directors and officials as accused.

They are Krishnan Sangameshwaran, Nazura Yashjaney, Gopal Das Bhatia, Aniyath Shivraman, Dhanesh Vrajlal Sheth, Jyoti Bharat Vora, Anil Umesh Haldipur, Chandrakant Kanu Karkare, Pankhuri Abhijeet Varange, and Mihir Bhaskar Joshi.

Prime accused diamond trader Nirav Modi and other accomplices fled the country in early January, before the massive PNB fraud came to light.

The CBI's first information reports (FIRs) lodged on Friday following a complaint by the PNB said that Gitanjali Gems, Gili India Ltd and Nakshatra Brand Ltd and their directors in connivance with Sethi and other officials caused a loss of Rs 4,886.72 crore to the bank.

The CBI invoked charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating under the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act against Mehul Choksi, the Managing Director of Gitanjali Gems Ltd based at Mumbai's Walkeshwar.

In the earlier FIR filed on Thursday, the CBI named three companies of Gitanjali Group for causing alleged loss of Rs 4,886.72 crore.

Simultaneously, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday launched nationwide raids on 26 premises, including offices, showrooms and workshops of Nirav Modi.

The multi-pronged action came a day after the Punjab National Bank admitted to a fraud totalling Rs 11,515 crore and involving Nirav Modi's companies and certain other accounts with the bank's flagship branch (Brady House Branch) in Mumbai and its second largest lending window in India.

The fraud, which includes money laundering, alleged involved the Firestar Diamonds group in which the CBI last week booked Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal Modi and their uncle Mehul Choksi.