CBI targets internal auditors in PNB $2 billion fraud probe

Vastavam web: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday told a court an internal auditor at a Mumbai branch of Punjab National Bank conspired with other officials to carry out a $2 billion fraud at the country’s second-biggest state lender.The CBI on Wednesday arrested auditor Mohinder Kumar Sharma, widening its probe into the biggest bank fraud in India’s history. On Thursday it accused Sharma of conspiracy in a filing to a Mumbai court, which committed him to police custody until March 13.

CBI has so far arrested at least 14 people, eight from the bank and six from companies owned by billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle, Mehul Choksi, who owns Gitanjali Gems Ltd.Modi and Choksi have been accused of colluding with Punjab National Bank (PNB) officials to secure unauthorised loans between 2011 and 2017, mostly from the overseas branches of Indian state banks. They left India in January before the fraud was unearthed, but have denied the charges through letters and statements.

But he, “in conspiracy with other co-accused persons, deliberately ignored to point out the issuance of illegal” letters of undertaking (LOUs) for companies owned by Modi and Choksi to raise loans from other banks, the inspector added.Sharma’s lawyer Apoorv Vijay Singh told the court his client “had no opportunity to know about the messages” sent on international payments platform SWIFT by other bank officials as he did not have access to SWIFT.