PNB fraud: ED, CBI widen probe; 200 shell firms, benami assets under scanner

ED suspects that the shell firms were being used to route funds, which were then parked as land, gold and gems under fake identities.

PNB fraud: ED, CBI widen probe; 200 shell firms, benami assets under scanner
Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: At least 200 shell firms and "benami" assets have come under the scanner of the federal investigative agencies that are probing the Rs 11,400 crore alleged fraud at the Punjab National Bank (PNB), involving diamond czar Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi.

The Enforcement Directorate suspects that the shell firms were being used to route funds, which were then parked as land, gold and gems under fake identities, reported news agency Press Trust of India.

Over the last three days, raids have been held at 73 locations across the country, in which assets worth Rs 5,674 crore have been seized by the Enforcement Directorate. On Sunday, the agency raided at least 45 premises, including jewellery showrooms and workshops, across 15 cities, reported Press Trust of India.

The list includes 10 places in Bengaluru, seven in Delhi, five each in Kolkata and Mumbai, four each in Chandigarh and Hyderabad, three each in Patna and Lucknow, two in Ahmedabad and one each in Chennai and Guwahati. The raids in Delhi were conducted at the outlets of diamond retailer Gitanjali at some of the posh malls in the south and west Delhi, reported news agency IANS.

A police case has been filed against Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi's uncle and business partner, and three firms associated with him — Geetanjali, Gili and Nakshatra.

At least two dozen properties under the anti-money laundering law will be attached by the Enforcement Directorate, reported Press Trust of India, quoting official sources. 

On Saturday, the Income Tax department attached nine bank accounts of Gitanjali Gems, Mehul Choksi and others. It also attached 29 properties and 105 bank accounts of Nirav Modi, his family members and firms owned by them.

Last week, state-run lender PNB said that its officials at a branch in Mumbai had helped Nirav Modi and others get credit in violation of rules. The fraud was revealed when Nirav Modi's companies sought a fresh loan.

However, the Central Bureau of Investigation has already arrested three persons, including the 2 staffers of the PNB, who have been sent to the judicial custody till March 3.

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