Amid debate over who among banks will bear the loss from the Rs11,400 crore fraud in Punjab National Bank ( PNB), celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi has said PNB’s overzealousness shut the doors on his ability to clear the dues in a letter to the Punjab National Bank’s management.
The alleged kingpin of the largest banking scam in the country’s history, has said the dues were much less than what the bank has claimed, and that his relatives booked in the cases filed by the central agencies had nothing to do with the operations of the firms under their scanner.
Bankers and legal experts have meanwhile, have said that the liability of the fraud could be decided by settlement talks rather than litigation to preserve the credibility of the banking system.
“If the banks don’t settle, then it will have to be adjudicated. What is more important is that everybody takes such action which doesn’t impact the credibility of the banking system,” a media report quoted Rajnish Kumar, chairman, State Bank of India as saying in an interview. “This is not a negotiated settlement. On the basis of documents, whoever is not compliant with regulatory guidelines they should take responsibility.”
In a letter written on February 15/16 to the PNB management, he pegged the money his companies owe to the bank under Rs. 5,000 crore.
“The erroneously cited liability resulted in a media frenzy which led to immediate search and seizure of operations, and which in turn resulted in Firestar International and Firestar Diamond International effectively ceasing to be going-concerns,” he wrote in the letter. “This thereby jeopardised our ability to discharge the dues of the group to the banks.”
“In the anxiety to recover your dues immediately, despite my offer (on February 13, a day before the public announcement, and on 15) your actions have destroyed my brand and the business and have now restricted your ability to recover all the dues leaving a trail of unpaid debts,” he reportedly said.
The letter, media reports suggest, also refers to the extended discussions between him, and between his representatives and the bank officers, besides his emails of February 13 and 15, 2018.
Nirav Modi left the country along with his family in the first week of January, before the alleged scam became public.
The PNB, the second largest state-run bank, had, on February 14, informed the exchanges about detecting a $ 1.77 billion fraud at its Brady House branch in Mumbai, and named the firms led by Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi’s Gitanjali Group, and some other diamond and jewellery merchants as suspects.
Owning up everything, Modi said the bank has wrongly named his brother, who is not at all concerned with the operations of the three firms or other companies. “My wife is not connected with any business operations at all and she has been wrongly named. My uncle is also wrongly named in this complaint since he has an independent and unconnected business and none of them are aware or concerned with my dealings with your bank.”
“Whatever may be the consequences I may face for my actions, the haste was, in my humble submission, unwarranted,” Modi wrote, urging the bank to permit him to pay the salaries to 2,200 employees from the balance lying in the current accounts of his firms.