Serious Fraud Investigation Office grills PNB MD for 5 hours

Mr Mehta, who was appointed as the MD and CEO of PNB in 2017 was questioned for almost five hours.

Mumbai: The Punjab National Bank (PNB) managing director Sunil Mehta on Wednesday appeared before the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) for recording his statement in connection with the Rs 12,600 crore fraud unearthed at one of its branches in Mumbai. His questioning comes a day after SFIO summoned senior executives of ICICI Bank and Axis Bank seeking details regarding their exposure to firms related to Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, the alleged masterminds behind the scam.

Mr Mehta, who was appointed as the MD and CEO of PNB in 2017 was questioned for almost five hours. He was earlier summoned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the same case that has so far resulted in the arrest of over a dozen officials belonging to PNB and entities associated with Mr Modi and Mr Choksi.

Senior officials from other banks would also be questioned in the coming days as the agency has issued summons to a total of thirty one banks that were part of a consortium, which advanced over Rs 5,000 crore as working capital loans to Mr Choksi promoted Gitanjali gems. According to news agency ANI, officials of ICICI Bank and Axis Bank told investigators that there was no visible possibility of recovering the money from the companies owned by Mr Choksi and Mr Modi.

In a regulatory filing with the stock exchanges, ICICI Bank clarified that it has no exposure to the Nirav Modi group of companies nor has the bank issued any letter of undertakings.

“The bank is a part of the working capital lender consortium in the Gitanjali group of companies along with several other banks wherein its exposure is not the largest,” it said.

Meanwhile, Axis Bank informed that its exposure to these entities is approximately Rs 200 crore. “The bank is not the leader of the lending consortium in these groups. We continue to offer information on these accounts as sought by the authorities. We further clarify that this does not have any material impact on the bank,” it said.

On Wednesday, stocks of both public as well as private sector lenders remained under heavy selling pressure with SBI and ICICI Bank slumping 3.84 per cent and 2.85 per cent respectively. The Nifty PSU bank index cracked 3.57 per cent to hit a fresh 52-week low.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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