New Delhi: The CBI on Monday arrested three more Punjab National Bank (PNB) officials after intense grilling during the day in connection with Rs 11,384 crore scam involving billionaire jewellery merchants Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, officials said.
The agency also started searches on late Monday evening at group offices of Nirav Modi at Peninsula Business Park in Lower Parel, Mumbai.
The total number of arrests by the CBI has risen to six — four PNB officials, a retired employee of the bank, and an authorised signatory of Nirav Modi’s company — after Monday’s development. Manoj Kharat, a Single Window Operator at PNB, and the retired employee Gokulnath Shetty were arrested earlier.
Bechhu Tiwari, the then chief manager in the Forex department; Yashwant Joshi, Scale-II Manager in the Forex department; and Praful Sawant, Scale-I officer handling the exports section were arrested by the agency this evening, officials said
The agency has started searches at their residences located in Navi Mumbai, Andheri and Dombivilli, they said.
Tiwari was responsible for supervising Shetty, believed to be main accused along with Modi and Choksi.
Joshi is also a senior officer in the vertical in which Shetty was working. He had to ensure daily reports of SWIFT and the Core Banking Solution System of the bank, but despite knowing Shetty’s activities, he took no action, officials said.
Sawant is a Scale-I officer in the export section and is responsible for checking daily SWIFT messages and report. They were being questioned by the agency since morning, officials said.
Shetty and Kharat allegedly sent messages of these LoUs and LCs using an international messaging system for banking systems called SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) which is used to pass instructions among banks globally to transfer funds.
But these messages were not routinely updated in the Core Banking Solutions system of the bank which takes care of daily business.
It is estimated that millions of messages are sent daily using the SWIFT technology globally wherein every member bank can send or receive messages of financial transactions to another bank worldwide.
The CBI is also questioning four senior executives of Nirav Modi’s company Fire Star Diamond, including its President (Finance) Vipul Ambani and Chief Financial Officer Ravi Gupta, officials said today.
Ambani had been holding the position for over three years. It is believed he was aware of the financial transactions carried out by the company of the jeweller-businessman, who fled the country before PNB reported the Rs 11,400-crore fraud, the officials said. He is understood to be a relative of late industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani.
Saurabh Sharma, a senior executive in the finance department of the company, and manager Subhash Parab are also being quizzed.
CBI officials said the agency is still questioning arrested bank officials Shetty, who has retired, and Kharat, the Single Window Operator of the bank and Hemant Bhat, the authorised signatory of Nirav Modi’s company.
Besides other officials of PNB are also being questioned, to find out more about the money trail and the depth of the alleged scam involving thousands of documents and digital records.