Absconding diamond merchant Mehul Choksi voiced his defence for the first time since his named surfaced in the Rs 11,400-crore PNB fraud. The owner of Gitanjali group, in an office memo to company's staff members, pointed an accusing finger at investigating agencies probing the scam for painting him in a bad picture. He also said that he will not be able to clear the dues or pay future salaries of his employees.
Choksi said that a 'situation of fear and injustice' has been created against him and the organisation. "...with the recent 'false allegations' levelled against me of defrauding the PNB and media frenzy, the situation has gone grave which is turning graver by the day," he wrote in the letter to his employees.
At this moment, the investigating agencies seem to be interested not in a fair investigation but in creating a fear psychosis within my employees, Choksi said, adding that the present situation is making him highly insecure about his safety and that of his family members.
Using seizure of his bank accounts as a justification, Choksi said that he will not be able to reimburse the salaries of his employees. "It is very tough for me, as of now, to be clearing your dues or to pay the future salaries, in view of the seizing of the various bank accounts and other properties by the government agencies/ investigating agencies," Choksi said.
Blaming the investigating agencies of being 'hell bent upon stopping the operations' in India, Choksi said that it will take some time for him to prove his innocence, and the future seems uncertain presently. He asked the employees of Gitanjali group to find new jobs as he does not want people to suffer due to their connection/association with him.
The HR of Gitanjali group has been instructed to issue reliving letters and experience certificates. Choksi promised that the he will clear their dues 'once things return to normalcy'.
"Even the operations in India have come to a standstill and restarting the same may take time. In such a situation, it shall be wrong on my part to force you all to sit idle waiting for the work to restart, when the future for all you is bright," Choksi said.
Choksi is one of the prime accused in the PNB fraud case along with his nephew Nirav Modi that was brought to public domain by Punjab National Bank (PNB) the last week in a regulatory filing. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been investigating the case but the Modi, Choksi and their accomplices have fled the country before any action could be taken against them. Investigating agencies have been raiding and seizing properties of Nirav Modi brand and jewellery businesses of Choksi under the Gitanjali group to recover the defrauded amount.
Properties of Nirav Modi attached
Meanwhile, Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached 21 properties belonging to Nirav Modi, including a penthouse, a farmhouse, and a solar plant, and his group worth over Rs. 523 crore.
"21 immovable properties of Nirav Modi and companies controlled by him, with a market value of Rs. 523.72 crore, have been provisionally attached. These include 6 residential properties, ten office premises, 2 flats in Pune, a solar power plant, a farmhouse in Alibaug and 135 acres of land in Karjat in Ahmednagar district," the agency said.
With the latest action, the total assets seized by the ED in this case are now over Rs. 6,393 crore, officials claimed. They added that this value has been quoted from independent sources.