CBI arrests Gokulnath Shetty, two others in the PNB Fraud Nirav Modi Case

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday arrested three accused in the multi-crore rupee fraud unearthed in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) recently.

Six more officials of the PNB have also come under the scanner, CBI sources confirmed.

According to CBI officers, retired deputy manager Gokulchand Shetty, suspended single window operator Manoj Kharat and Hemant Bhat, the authorised signatory of the Nirav Modi group, were picked up from different locations in Mumbai in the early hours and subsequently placed under arrest.

“Shetty and Kharat, in their capacity as officials of the bank, issued Letters Of Undertaking without following the requisite procedures. Bhat was not originally named in the FIR. However, after his involvement was revealed we arrested him,” a CBI officer said.

The trio will now be interrogated regarding the allegations made against them in the complaint letter submitted by PNB’s Zonal Manager Avneesh Nepalia.

“We will also be grilling Shetty and Kharat to find out whether any other bank officials were involved, as it seems unlikely that a fraud of such magnitude can be perpetrated by two persons alone,” the officer said.

The CBI has also initiated inquiries against six other PNB officials, after indications that they might have known of the offence or been involved in it.

Meanwhile, a search was conducted at the PNB’s branch in Brady House, Fort, which, according to investigating officers, is the centre of the fraud.

Mr. Nepalia, in his complaint to the CBI submitted on January 29 this year, has said that in 2017, the duo issued a total of eight LoUs to overseas banks in favour of firms owned by the Modi group as well as Mehul Choksi, causing a loss of over ₹280 crore to the bank.

The CBI has also registered a separate FIR against three diamond trading firms owned by Mr. Choksi for a similar offence, where the loss sustained by the PNB comes up to more than ₹4,882 crore, and Mr. Shetty and Mr. Kharat have also been named as accused in these FIRs.

The ED, too, has registered an offence in connection with the CBI’s first FIR under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to probe the money laundering aspect of the case.

The ED has so far seized diamonds and precious stones of a stock value of over ₹5,100 crore, and has started independent evaluation of the assets. Soon after their arrests, the city civil and sessions court on Saturday remanded Mr. Shetty, Mr. Kharat and Mr. Bhatt.

Special judge Sardar Tamboli said, “The offences in the FIR are very serious. The remand copy shows that the fraud is of ₹280.70 crore but can go to more than ₹6,000 crore. Hence the investigating agency must be given a chance to probe the offence as this fraud has consequences for the economy of the nation. Hence they are remanded in custody till March 3.”

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