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CBI lens on top law firm in PNB scam

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MUMBAI: CBI is exploring the option of naming a top law firm either as a conspirator, or registering a fresh case – for possession of stolen property- after investigating officers found official documents belonging to the bank on its premises.

CBI officials said that during a search at the legal firm’s premises in February, they found documents which ought to have been in the possession of the bank. These documents were handed over by PNB officer Gokulnath Shetty (now under arrest) to jeweller Mehul Choksi. “Shetty didn’t want certain documents to be kept at the bank. He handed them over to Choksi. They were then shifted to the legal firm’s offices,” an official said.

The managing partner of the firm did not respond to a text message sent on Friday and an email sent on Saturday.

On Sunday, a message seeking his comment was left on his answering machine. CBI officials said they were in the process of scrutinising documents taken from the legal firm. The firm was reportedly mandated by Choksi weeks before the fraud became public on February 14.

“We had information that documents were being shifted from one place to another before reaching the legal firm’s office,” an official said.

Meanwhile, CBI has questioned a consultant to Mehul Choksi referred to as AJ in the account books. “AJ acted as an intermediary between Choksi and some politicians and bureaucrats,” a source said.

AJ reportedly disclosed to CBI that 1kg gold bars had been gifted to certain people for favours granted. CBI officials denied reports that initial plans to arrest AJ were dropped because of his proximity to influential people, but confirmed he had been questioned. It is also learnt that CBI has found a hard disk that contains initials of those who have been “taken care of”.

CBI officials said that it was not possible for PNB’s Shetty alone to have pulled off a scam of such magnitude.

They said Nirav Modi’s plans to flee the country must have been planned.

“A representative of his had a series of meetings with senior PNB officials in Delhi and Mumbai where he made a request to grant a fresh loan,” a CBI official said. This money was to be used to repay the existing dues.

“After exchanging a series of emails, officials decided against it,” he added. A few days later the CBI registered an FIR, by which time Modi had fled the country. CBI’s questioning of RBI officials on the 80:20 gold scheme was to ascertain if a Congress politician had played any role in the scam.

In August 2013, the then UPA government had introduced the scheme, which allowed traders to import gold only after they had exported 20% of gold from their previous import. The scheme resulted in round-tripping of black money and money laundering.

Updated: April 8, 2018 — 7:24 pm

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