NEW DELHI/MUMBAI — Gitanjali Group Vice President of Banking Operations Vipul Chitalia, who was arrested in connection with the Central Bureau of Investigation’s ongoing probe into the multi-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case, was sent by a Mumbai court March 6 to police custody until March 17, officials said.
In a related development, the Enforcement Directorate, which is also investigating the Rs. 12,600-crore PNB fraud case, has decided to send Letters Rogatory to over 15 countries against diamond jeweler Nirav Modi and Mehul 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 CBI official told IANS in Delhi.
Earlier March 6 morning, the CBI escorted Chitalia from the Mumbai airport soon after he landed in the city.
The CBI official further said Chitalia had fled India along with Nirav Modi in January this year.
According to CBI officials, he was allegedly responsible for handling unauthorized letters of undertaking and letters of credit, and maintaining contact with bank officials.
The agency official also said they have questioned four more treasury department officials who bear the ranks of bank general manager and assistant general manager.
Choksi and Modi are accused of defrauding the PNB of Rs. 12,600 crore, with Rs. 1,300 crore being added to the fraud total Feb. 26.
The CBI filed the initial First Information Report on Feb. 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 left the country in early January.
The CBI filed a second FIR Feb. 15 over a Rs. 4,886.72-crore fraud against Choksi's Gitanjali Group.
An ED officials said that the directorate will issue Letters Rogatory to over 15 countries against Nirav Modi and Choksi.
He said the agency will send the Letters Rogatory to countries including the U.S., the U.K. the U.A.E., Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa and other nations where the companies conducted business.
On March 3, an anti-money laundering court in Mumbai issued non-bailable warrants against the absconding diamantaires Modi and Choksi.
Meanwhile, a Mumbai special court March 5 permitted the ED to issue Letters Rogatory to six countries to identify and seize properties of the absconding diamond traders.
To date, the ED has searched over 198 locations across India and seized properties worth nearly Rs. 6,000 crore, while the CBI has arrested at least 19 people so far.
On March 6, Modi's firm, Firestar Diamond, moved the Delhi High Court against the ED’s proceedings against the company.
In its plea, Firestar Diamond sought to quash the seizure of Modi’s movable properties and their deposit in the PNB.
Firestar Diamond also sought copies of the search warrant and other documents related to the ED’s searches and seizures.
The ED has so far seized Rs. 6,000 crore worth of properties owned by Modi and his uncle Choksi.
The court will hear the plea March 7.
On March 6, the Congress Party said a Right to Information revealed that over the last three years, frauds of Rs. 19,317 crore have been reported in Mumbai alone, and demanded a reply from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party said the governments of Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appear to have given a one-way-ticket to cheat and scoot.
"Shocking information available through RTI on Feb. 9, 2018, reflects that under the BJP government's watch, frauds and scams of Rs. 19,317 crore have been reported in India's economic capital – Economic Offenses Wing, Mumbai – alone in last three years," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Citing the RTI reply, Surjewala said in 2015, the fraud totaled Rs. 5,560.66 crore; in 2016, Rs. 4,273.87 crore and in 2017, the fraud totaled Rs. 9,838.66 crore.
He said that under Modi’s rule, fraudsters were able to operate with a 'fleece, flee and fly' mantra.
"Fraud, malfeasance, bank loot, cheating and swindling of banks and common people are getting unraveled every day, as the prime minister and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley are on an indefinite 'maun vrat' (vow of silence)," he said.
He said the fraud cases include the Bank of Baroda forex scam, worth Rs. 6,400 crore; the Vijay Mallya bank scam of Rs. 9,000 crore; the Rs. 22,606 crore Modi and Choksi bank loot; Mehul Choksi Jan Dhan Loot Yojana of Rs. 5,000 crore; the Rs. 3,695 crore Vikram Kothari Rotomac scam; the Rs. 390 crore Dwarka Das Jewelers bank scam; the Canara Bank Scam worth Rs. 515 crore and the Winsome bank loot scam worth Rs. 6,712 crore, with the money lost totaling Rs. 54,318 crore.
"What is even more astonishing is that 184 accused in these scams and frauds have escaped.
"Time to tell the people as to how many fraudsters have already left for foreign shores and tax heavens. Even more inexcusable is the fact that of Rs. 19,317 crore, a pittance of Rs. 2.50 crore could be recovered. India demands switch from 'Nirav' Modi (silent Modi) to 'Bol' Modi," said the leader.