PNB fraud: CBI quizzes former MD Usha Ananthasubramanian, other bank officials

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New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) questioned Punjab National Bank’s (PNB) former managing director Usha Ananthasubramanian, two general managers at PNB and N.S. Kannan, executive director at ICICI Bank, in relation to the $2-billion fraud at the state-run bank, said an official with the federal agency.

Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate and income tax department moved court separately, seeking a non-bailable warrant against Nirav Modi, the man at the centre of the fraud.

“Usha Ananthasubramanian was being questioned at Mumbai along with two general managers, Nehal Ahad (GM, international banking division of PNB) and Vimlesh Kumar (GM, Mumbai zone). We are also questioning N.S. Kannan because ICICI was the leader of the consortium of banks that lent money to Mehul Choksi’s Gitanjali group,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

The ICICI Bank official was being questioned “only to gather more information on Gitanjali Gems”, the official added. PNB did not respond to emails seeking comment. Ananthasubramanian, who currently heads Allahabad Bank, declined comment.

Stating that it was cooperating with the CBI’s investigation, ICICI Bank said in an emailed statement that it had no exposure to the Nirav Modi group of companies, nor did it issue any letter of undertaking to either the Modi or Gitanjali groups. “We are working capital lenders to the Gitanjali group of companies along with several other banks in the consortium. Our exposure to the Gitanjali group of companies is not the largest among lenders in the consortium,” the statement said.

The $2 billion PNB fraud centres on unauthorized letters of undertaking (LoUs) issued in favour of Modi and Gitanjali group-related entities to help them raise credit overseas.

Late on Monday, PNB informed the stock exchanges that it had discovered an additional fraud of $202 million, taking the total to around $2 billion. On Tuesday, ED moved a special court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) seeking a non-bailable warrant against Nirav Modi, after he and Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali group failed to respond to summons issued to them.

While Modi’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal declined comment, Choksi’s lawyer Sanjay Abbot said, “He (Choksi) cannot come since his passport has been revoked. So, he cannot travel.”

A foreign ministry official, however, said on condition of anonymity that emergency travel documents were issued by the home country (India) in such cases, should the parties apply for one.

With agencies continuing their crackdown, the income tax department too attached 66 bank accounts of the Gitanjali group with a balance of Rs80.07 crore.

On 20 February, it had attached nine bank accounts belonging to Modi and Choksi. On 22 February, it had also searched four locations in Mumbai belonging to Modi.

“At one location, 173 paintings and artworks by eminent artists have been found which have been placed under prohibitory orders as the process of valuation of the paintings is underway by professionals of the JJ School of Art in Mumbai,” the IT department said in a statement.livemint