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PNB staff linked to Nirav Modi scam have properties, bank accounts abroad

The bank has been informed about the involvement of some officials who may have assets abroad, and the PNB is also seeking legal opinion in the matter

Investigating agencies suspect some employees of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) have bank accounts and assets outside India, which could be linked to the Nirav Modi case. The entire PNB fraud, involving businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, is now pegged to be around Rs 13,700 crore. Though the agencies may launch criminal proceedings against these employees, experts suggest it will not be easy to prove a Nirav Modi link to these properties. A major reason, they say, is that most people don't buy assets in their name outside the country.

The bank has been informed about the involvement of some officials who may have assets abroad, and the PNB is also seeking legal opinion in the matter, reported ET. "Most of the work is being done by the investigative agencies that may be able to identify where proceeds if the alleged crime are parked. PNB can file criminal cases claiming quid pro quo between their employees and Nirav Modi's company for causing wrong losses to the bank," the newspaper quoted an unknown official as saying.

It is worth mentioning here that the investigation agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have no powers to investigate cases outside India. The bank is reportedly preparing a legal strategy to find bases to interrogate those who allegedly colluded with Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.

Apart from the agencies investigating the case, the bank has also appointed accounting company BDO India to conduct a forensic audit of all the transactions related to the case. This could not only give a clear picture about Nirav Modi's assets but also point fingers at its own errant officials. If the bank is able to establish the link between Nirav Modi's company and the assets bought by these employees abroad, it will eventually have to prove they conspired against the bank, say experts.

So far, the CBI has named total 11 accused in the case. Seven employees of PNB, including deputy manager Gokulnath Shetty, are already behind bars. Vipul Ambani, CFO, Nirav Modi-controlled Firestar Group of Companies, is another major arrest in case. Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, in connivance of several senior as well as junior officials, defrauded PNB of several thousand crore of rupees. These PNB officials fraudulently issued LoUs and LoCs on behalf of several companies belonging to the duo for availing buyers' credit from overseas branches of Indian banks. None of the transactions were routed through the CBS (Core Banking Solution) system, thus avoiding early detection of fraudulent activity, which was going on since 2011.

Also read: Companies owned by Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi received Rs 450 crore in July 2014 alone