ICICI Bank MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar and Axis Bank MD Shikhar Sharma — two of India’s top bankers — have been summoned by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in the Rs 12,700-crore PNB-Nirav Modi scam, television news channels reported citing a notice. In the scam, diamond czar Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi allegedly colluded with former bank employees at PNB to obtain fake LoUs (Letters of Understanding).
The two bankers were summoned in connection with loans given to Gitanjali Gems owned by Mehul Choksi. Media reports said that ICICI Bank led the 31-lender consortium which gave loans to the company. The SFIO is investigating loans worth Rs 5,280 crore to Gitanjali Gems.
A report by NDTV said that unidentified sources have indicated that senior officials were being questioned for clarifications and not as accused in the PNB Fraud. ICICI Bank has said that it has exposure in the case of Gitanjali Gems, but has denied any exposure in the PNB-Nirav Modi fraud case.
The PNB Fraud came to light on February 14 when the bank informed the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) about the alleged collusion between Nirav Modi and a former bank employee. The bank initially informed that it had an exposure of Rs 11,400 crore, which was later raised to Rs 12,700 crore.
On March 1, PNB clarified that of the total fraud amount Rs 1,300 crore is attributable to Gitanjali Gems. According to IANS, the bank said in a note to stock exchanges that the latest fraud was committed on March 2, 2017. With this additional amount, the total fraud amount related to Gitanjali Gems went up to Rs 6,186.72 crore.
Currently, a multi-agency probe is undergoing in the PNB fraud case and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has informed a special CBI court that the fraud by the duo has been going on since 2010. So far, several officials allegedly involved in the case have been arrested including Kapil Khandelwal, CFO, Nakshatra group and Gitanjali group.
On Monday, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed the UPA government for the banking mess, even alleging that Gitanjali Gems, the company in question, was one of the seven private companies which benefitted from the 80:20 gold scheme introduced by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram.