SFIO summons ICICI Bank, Axis Bank chiefs in PNB fraud case

A showroom of Geetanjali jewels. Credit Facebook

Indian investigators on Wednesday grilled the CEO of the state-owned Punjab National Bank, which is epicentre of the country's biggest-ever bank fraud of 1.8 billion dollars orchestrated by billionaire jeweller Modi.

ICICI Bank is the lead banker in the consortium of 31 banks which had extended working capital facility to Choksi's companies.

Billionaire Nirav Modi, his uncle Mehul Choksi and others are being investigated by multiple probe agencies after the scam recently came to light following a complaint by the PNB that they had allegedly cheated the nationalised bank to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore, with the purported involvement of a few employees of the bank.

Choksi and Modi are accused of defrauding the PNB of Rs. 12,600 crore, with Rs. 1,300 crore being added to the fraud total February 26.

"The government also helped him get a citizenship of St Kitts", he alleged, and added that thereafter Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya left, followed by Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told a Mumbai court that the amount involving Modi's companies was likely to go up, reports quoting sources said.

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In a statement to the stock exchange late on Tuesday, Axis said the SFIO had sought information from it on the accounts of Nirav Modi and Choksi's Gitanjali group of companies. Axis Bank said its exposure to these entities is just Rs 200 crore and that the bank is not a leader in the consortium.

An ED officials said that the directorate will issue Letters Rogatory to over 15 countries against Nirav Modi and Choksi.

The consortium comprises 30 public sector banks and nine private and multi-national banks. "His popularity is no good for the country if he is unable to bring back to the country the people behind these huge bank scams", Azad said.

It is alleged that Modi and Choksi had obtained letters of undertaking (LoUs) and foreign letters of credit (FLCs) of Rs12,636 crore issued in favour of foreign branches of Indian banks based on fraudulent claims.

Mehta had been earlier questioned in this case by the CBI on the regulatory processes, checks and balances and auditing schedules in place at PNB to monitor its finances and loans.

"Most of these documents are not yet recovered".

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