PNB fraud accused Choksi says Indian authorities ignoring due process

In this file photo, pedestrians walk past a Punjab National Bank office in Mumbai, India. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2018
0

PNB fraud accused Choksi says Indian authorities ignoring due process

MUMBAI: Mehul Choksi, the jeweller accused of being a central figure in an alleged fraud of nearly $2 billion against Punjab National Bank, criticized India’s investigating agencies in a letter alleging gross abuse of due process in the ongoing probe.
In a letter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), one of the lead agencies probing the alleged loan fraud, Choksi said the seizure of his assets, bank accounts and the shutting down of all his offices in India has caused prejudice against him.
In the letter dated Mar. 7, which was reviewed by Reuters on Thursday, Choksi said investigating agencies were acting with pre-determined minds and interfering with the course of justice.
In what has been dubbed the biggest fraud in India’s banking history, Punjab National Bank (PNB) and police have accused two jewelry groups — one controlled by diamond tycoon Nirav Modi and the other by his uncle Choksi — of colluding with some bank employees to secure credit from overseas banks using fraudulent guarantees.
Choksi, who heads Gitanjali Gems, which operates stores under banners including Gili, Nakshatra and Asmi, said in his letter that while the CBI has seized his assets, it has yet to submit a “Seizure Memo” in court, as required by law.
Choksi, who authorities say left India before the complaint against him was filed and whose passport has been suspended, said he feared greatly that he would not get “fair treatment and a fair trial” if he returned.
Both Choksi and Modi have denied the allegations and lawyers for the two key accused PNB employees in the case have also said they are innocent. The whereabouts of Choksi and Modi, who police say also left India in January, are unknown.
A spokesman for the CBI said he did not have any immediate comment on Choksi’s letter.
Choksi said in the letter he had traveled abroad on business before the complaints were made and his departure was not “a direct result” of the allegations against him.
Local media reported last week that a Mumbai court issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Modi and Choksi following an appeal by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), an Indian agency focused on foreign exchange and money laundering offenses.
Choksi said in the letter that he had undergone a cardiac procedure during the first week of February and he was unable to travel for at least four to six months as the procedure was yet to be completed. He did not say where he was.
The jeweller also told the agency he was being threatened by individuals with whom he has a business relationship and that his employees, customers and creditors have started expressing their “animosity” after his business was shut down.
Choksi, accused the media of unfair coverage in the letter, and said politicians were politicizing the case and creating a bias against him.
Police have also so far arrested 19 people including eight of PNB’s current and former employees, along with executives from jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi’s companies.
A source and documents reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday showed the amount involved in the fraud is likely to rise beyond the $2 billion mark.


Oil prices rise ahead of OPEC meeting

Updated 5 min 43 sec ago
0

Oil prices rise ahead of OPEC meeting

  • Libya supply drop supports price
  • Minister gather in Vienna for crunch meeting
Oil prices rose on Wednesday, supported by reports of a drop in US commercial crude inventories and the loss of storage capacity in Libya, but under pressure ahead of a meeting of OPEC exporters which may increase global production. Brent crude was up 50 cents at $75.58 a barrel in afternoon trade in London US crude inventories fell by 3 million barrels to 430.6 million barrels in the week to June 15, according to an American Petroleum Institute report on Tuesday. Traders said a drop in Libyan supplies due to the collapse of an estimated 400,000-barrel storage tank also helped push up prices. Looming large over markets, however, were meetings scheduled on June 22-23 in Vienna of the OPEC countries with other big producers, including Russia. “The run-up to this OPEC meeting is fraught with uncertainty with Iran from the onset adopting a very entrenched opposition to any supply increase,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of oil strategy at French bank BNP Paribas, told Reuters Global Oil Forum. Jack Allardyce, research analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald Europe, expects OPEC to compromise and agree a fairly modest increase of 300,000-600,000 barrels per day in production, equivalent to about 0.5 percent of world production. “We could see this knocking $5 per barrel off Brent,” Allardyce said. Markets are also watching tension between the US and China, with both sides threatening to impose duties on each other’s exports, including US crude oil. A 25 percent tariff on US crude oil imports, as threatened by China in retaliation for duties Washington has announced but not yet implemented against Chinese products, would make US crude uncompetitive in China versus other supplies.