As the inquiry into the biggest bank scam in India widens, more shady details continue to come out. The fear of being caught had apparently caught hold of diamond merchant Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle and partner, Mehul Choksi, in November 2017. This was when new staff members joined the PNB's Brady House branch, and raised objections over the issuance of Letters of Undertakings (LoU) and Letters of Credit (LoC) to the duo's firms. It was probably the first time when Modi and Choksi might have realised they could be caught, and thought of getting out of the country.
Shetty's retirement changed the game
The duo planned their exit in November 2017 when two senior employees, who were directly authorised to issue LoUs, left the country, and the new staffers raised alarm over the manner in which the earlier LoUs were issued, The Indian Express quoted sources as saying. The report says two officials who left the bank in November are believed to be in Dubai. The retirement of the prime co-conspirator, then deputy manager of the PNB branch, Gokulnath Shetty, on January 1 might have sounded alarm bells for Nirav Modi as he and his family, including his brother Nishal and wife Ami, fled to the US, while Mehul Choksi also flew out of the country, in the same week.
Agencies start probe in foreign countries
After almost 15 days of probe, the agencies have already 'crippled' the duo's empire here in India by freezing assets and bank accounts. The CBI has written to Axis Bank, Allahabad Bank, State Bank of India, UCO Bank and Union Bank of India to share details about the buyer's credit raised by their branches in foreign countries, while the ED is planning to send judicial requests to over a dozen countries for obtaining information about the overseas businesses and assets of diamantaires.
Once the CBI receives the information from these banks, it will send a formal request of Letters Rogatory - a request through a foreign court to obtain evidence from a specified person within the jurisdiction of that court - to over a dozen countries for information about the duo's overseas businesses. PTI reported the ED will also approach a competent court in Mumbai with a request to obtain LRs to be sent to about 15-17 countries, including Belgium, Hong Kong, Switzerland, the US, the UK, Dubai, Singapore and South Africa, where the agencies have traced the footsteps of the duo's business. Some officials may soon visit these countries to gather details of the overseas financial holdings of Modi and Choksi, who are accused in the Rs 11,400 crore PNB loan fraud case.
The details regarding their foreign bank accounts and properties could help the agencies understand how much money was flushed out by their companies taking advantage of the Indian banks. These assets will be investigated and if necessary would be attached under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), reported PTI.
Meanwhile, the investigation agencies have issued a lookout circular against 10 executives of the companies of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.