PNB fraud: Chief Bank Manager Bechu Tiwari, two others arrested

Punjab National Bank. Image credit: Newstrack

–TMC Desk

New Delhi, Feb 19: The CBI on Monday arrested Punjab National Bank’s Brady House branch (Mumbai) Chief Manager Bechu B. Tewari and two of his colleagues in a multi-crore bank fraud case against diamond merchants Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, an official said.

Tewari was arrested along with Yashwant Joshi, Scale II Manager (Forex department) and and Praful Sawant, Scale I officer (Export), after their day long questioning by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sleuths in Mumbai.

The CBI also conducted searches at their residences located at Navi Mumbai, Andheri, and Dombivili.

The agency officials also conducted raids at the offices of Nirav Modi group companies at Peninsula Business Park, Lower Parel while the searches at PNB’s Brady house branch – where Rs 11,300 crore fraud took place – have concluded.

The CBI’s move comes after it on Saturday arrested former PNB Deputy Manager Gokulnath Shetty, Single Window Operator Manoj Kharat and Nirav Modi group’s authorised signatory Hemant Bhat.

CBI investigators said that Tewari was responsible for supervising the work of Shetty and his manager to ensure entry of authorised SWIFT or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication messages only from the system.

Tewari had full knowledge of the activities of Shetty, said the CBI investigators.

According to the investigators, Joshi was responsible for supervising Shetty and ensure daily reports of SWIFT and Core Banking System (CBS) entries. He had full knowledge of the activities of Shetty but took no action.

Sawant is responsible for checking the SWIFT messages daily and reporting to his seniors.

The official said that the arrested PNB employees would be presented before the CBI special court in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the CBI on Monday continued examining several PNB officials, besides questioning four employees Nirav Modi’s firms including Vipul Ambani and Ravi Gupta, both Chief Financial Officers, Saurabh Sharma, President, Finance Division and Subhash Parab, Finance Executive in connection with the multi-crore bank fraud, an official said.

The CBI examined Ambani and 13 PNB officials, including some upto then General Manager rank officials, to find out about the irregularities in fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) and Foreign Letters of Credit (FLCs) in favour of companies of Nirav Modi and his uncle Choksi.

Ambani, son of Dhirubhai Ambani’s younger brother Natubhai Ambani, was also questioned by the CBI officials on Sunday for over eight hours in Mumbai. He is the CFO of Nirav Modi’s firm Firestar.

The agency has also sealed the bank’s second largest outlet — Brady House Branch in Mumbai — where the fraud had taken place.

While the CBI is scrutinising the details of LoUs and FLCs submitted by the PNB, the bank’s head office too has scrutinised the documents and submitted a report to the CBI. An LoU is a guarantee by the bank that should the borrower default on repayment, it would pay back the money to the original lender.

An FLC is a sort of guarantee to a third part or vendor that money for the goods supplied would be paid.

The scam surfaced when officials of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi groups approached the PNB’s Brady House Branch in January to seek LoU for making payments to suppliers. Shetty had retired last May and the new PNB officials demanded margin money to issue the LoUs.

However, they were told by Nirav Modi group officials that they had been getting such a facility for years without any margin money. Once the PNB officials checked, the whole fraud unravelled.


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