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PNB fraud: We have businesses abroad, so can't join investigation, Nirav Modi tells CBI

Nirav Modi is a key accused in the alleged PNB fraud which is now pegged at close to USD 2 billion.

PNB fraud: We have businesses abroad, so can't join investigation, Nirav Modi tells CBI
Pic courtesy: Reuters

New Delhi/Mumbai: The CBI has written a mail to jeweller Nirav Modi on his official email address asking him to join the investigation. Replying to the investigative agency, he said, "we have businesses abroad so I can't join the investigation."

The CBI is reported to have again written to Nirav Modi to contact the High Commission of the concerned country and told him that the agency will arrange his travel.

They have directed him to join investigation next week saying it was mandatory.

Meanwhile, earlier, the diamond trader, a key accused in the alleged PNB fraud which is now pegged at close to USD 2 billion, faced more heat on Tuesday with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) moving a court  for a non-bailable warrant (NBW) and another court issuing summons to him in a tax evasion case.

As Nirav Modi's international jewellery business Firestar Diamond filed a bankruptcy plea in the US, officials said the CBI questioned the CEO and the MD of Allahabad Bank Usha Ananthasubramanian in the Punjab National Bank fraud case that allegedly involved him and his uncle Mehul Choksi.

Ananthasubramanian was the Managing Director and the CEO of PNB since August 14, 2015, before being appointed in Allahabad Bank on May 6, 2017.

In Mumbai, Special PMLA Court Judge MS Azmi heard the arguments of ED's special counsel Hiten Venegoankar on Tuesday on the agency's plea seeking issuance of the NBW against Nirav Modi who is believed to be in the US.

Venegoankar told the court the ED registered a case against Nirav Modi on February 15 and from that time issued three summonses to him to appear before the agency.

He said the summonses were issued on February 15, February 17 and February 22, asking him to appear before the ED on February 16, February 22 and February 26, respectively.

The ED lawyer said Nirav Modi did not appear before the agency for questioning and hence it has sought issuance of an NBW was against him.

A local court in Mumbai issued summons against Nirav Modi in connection with an income tax evasion probe against him and his companies, officials said.

They said the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate issued the summons and asked Nirav Modi to appear before it on March 12.

The court issued the notice after the Income Tax Department had last week filed a chargesheet against him for alleged evasion of taxes and the court took cognisance of it on Tuesday.

The chargesheet was filed under sections 276 C (1) (wilful attempt to evade tax), 277 A (false statement in verification), 278 B (offences by companies) and 278 E (presumption as to culpable mental state) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

On questioning of Ananthasubramanian, a CBI official said in Delhi that agency wants to get clarifications from her as to how huge transactions were bypassing surveillance system in the PNB and whether audit reports were red flagging these transactions.

The 60-year-old banker, who was recently elected as the chief of Indian Banks' Association, had held senior positions in the PNB where Modi and Choksi were allegedly getting fraudulent guarantees since 2011.

The PNB has said that the alleged fraud perpetrated by Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi may be around USD 2 billion, over USD 204 million more than previously estimated.

In a late night filing to stock exchanges on Tuesday, the state-owned lender said that "the quantum of reported unauthorised transactions can increase by USD 204.25 million."

The bank had earlier put the defrauded amount at Rs 11,394.02 crore (USD 1.77 billion). Adding another Rs 1,323 crore would take this to Rs 12,717 crore.

(With PTI inputs)