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Last Updated Sunday August 19 2018 02:17 AM IST

PNB fraud likely to be bigger, Choksi employee in custody

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Nirav Modi Indian jeweller Nirav Modi poses during the launch of his store in Mumbai, March 14, 2015. Fotocorp/Handout via REUTERS/Files

New Delhi/Mumbai: Investigating agencies have hinted that the PNB fraud may be much bigger than the currently known $2 billion.

This was revealed after the agencies identified that several incriminating documents were still underground or missing.

A Mumbai court Tuesday sent the vice president of banking operations of Mehul Choksi's Gitanjali Group, Vipul Chitalia, who was arrested in connection with the ongoing probe, to police custody till March 17, officials said.

In a related development, the Enforcement Directorate, which is also probing the Rs 12,600-crore Punjab National bank (PNB) fraud case, has decided to send Letters Rogatory (LRs) to over 15 countries against diamond jeweller Nirav Modi and Choksi.

"Vipul Chitalia was arrested by the agency officials after a brief questioning. He was produced before a court which sent him to police custody till March 17," a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official told IANS in Delhi.

Earlier in the morning, he was taken away from the Mumbai airport by the CBI, soon after he landed in the city.

The CBI official also said that Chitalia had fled the country along with Nirav Modi in January this year.

According to CBI officials, he was allegedly responsible for handling unauthorised letters of undertaking (LoUs) and letters of credit and maintaining contact with bank officials.

The agency official also said that they have questioned four more treasury department officials of General Manager and Assistant General Manager rank of the bank.

Choksi, along with Nirav Modi, has been accused of defrauding the PNB of Rs 12,600 crore, with Rs 1,300 crore being added to the fraud kitty on February 26.

The CBI had filed the first FIR in the scam on February 14 against Nirav Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal, uncle Choksi and his firms Diamond R US, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamond.

Modi, his family and Choksi had left the country in early January.

The CBI filed a second FIR on February 15 over a Rs 4,886.72-crore fraud against Choksi's Gitanjali Group.

An ED official said that the Directorate will issue LRs to over 15 countries against Nirav Modi and Choksi.

He said that the agency would be sending the LRs to countries like the United States, the UK, the UAE, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa and others where their companies had spread their businesses.

On Saturday, an anti-money laundering court in Mumbai had issued non-bailable warrants (NBWs) against absconder diamantaires Nirav Modi and Choksi.

Meanwhile, a Mumbai special court on Monday permitted the ED to issue LRs to six countries for identifying and seizing properties of the absconding diamond traders.

To date, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has carried out searches at over 198 locations across the country and seized properties worth nearly Rs 6,000 crore, while the CBI has arrested at least 19 persons in the case so far.

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