PNB fallout: Jaitley talks of tougher law to bring scamsters to justice

Arun Jaitley

Without mentioning the Rs 11.3 billon fraud on state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) involving diamantaire Nirav Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday said Indian law will be suitably amended to bring to bear the full weight of justice on fraudsters.

Making his first public comments on the PNB scam that has rocked the banking system, Jaitley had earlier this week said that the state is duty-bound to ensure that those cheating the system are brought to justice.

"Indian business has to learn to do ethical business. Those who deviate from this will face the consequences not only in terms of business and civil law, but the criminal law too will be transformed to allow extreme action against such delinquents," Jaitley said at the ET Global Business Summit here on Saturday.

He also said that the Indian industry now needs to seriously introspect about its responsibility to be ethical while doing business.

"Rather than always have a close look at what governments are doing, Indian industry needs to look inwards and to a fair bit of introspecting," the Finance Minister said, adding that the industry, in collusion with chartered accountants, had for years been employing various ways like creating shell companies to "round trip" money and avoid paying taxes.

At an event here on Tuesday, he had said: "It is incumbent on us as a state, till its last legitimate capacity, to chase these people to the last possible conclusion to make sure that the country is not cheated."

In connection with the PNB case, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Court in Mumbai has remanded to police custody till March 3 three accused persons in the case -- PNB Deputy Manager Gokulnath Shetty, Single Window Operator Manoj Kharat and an authorised signatory of prime accused Nirav Modi's group companies.

Besides them, the CBI has also named 10 other directors and officials as accused in the scam.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday said it has attached diamond trader Nirav Modi's 21 immovable properties worth Rs 5.24 billion in connection with an ongoing probe into the Rs 11.3-billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.

The assets include a farm house in Alibaug (Rs 427 million) near Mumbai seashore, a solar power plant spread over 53 acre of land in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra (Rs 700 million) and another 135 acre land in Ahmednagar (Rs 22 million), along with other residential and office properties worth Rs 4.08 billion in Mumbai and Pune.

On Friday, the ED said it has frozen Nirav Modi's bank account and shares worth Rs 430 million. It had earlier seized bank deposits, shares and luxury cars worth over Rs 1 billion belonging to the businessman and his group.

The agency has also frozen mutual funds and shares worth Rs 78 million of Nirav Modi and Rs 867.2 million belonging to his uncle Mehul Choksi of the Gitanjali Group.

Both central agencies had conducted multiple raids at the residential and office premises and showrooms of the accused traders ever since the CBI filed two FIRs on February 14-15 against Nirav Modi and the Gitanjali Group of companies.


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