We will not spare anyone found guilty in $1.8 bn fraud: PNB chief

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) A day after high-level fraudulent practice to the tune of $1.8 billion in one of the Punjab National Bank’s Mumbai branch was reported to the stock exchanges, Sunil Mehta, MD and CEO said it “will not spare anyone” involved in the wrongdoing.

“We are known for clean banking. The fraud started in 2011. We have brought it under the notice of regulatory and law enforcement agencies as soon as we came to know about it. We will not spare anyone involved in the fraudulent practice,” Mehta told reporters here in hurriedly called press meet on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday launched nationwide raids on the offices, showrooms and workshops of billionaire diamond trader Nirav Modi in Mumbai, Surat (Gujarat) and New Delhi.

The PNB chief said the fraud was detected on January 25 and was reported to the investigative agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on January 29.

He said he had received a “vague email” from the customers involved in the fraudulent transaction about settling the dues and the bank had asked them to send their detailed response. He said the transactions were detected in only one branch and no other branches were involved.

As for other banks, he said overseas branches of other Indian banks were affected by the transactions, except in one case. His answer was in response to a question whether any foreign bank branch was also affected.

“We have scanned all our branches also. This is a standalone case in one of our branches and we have scanned other branches also. There is nothing (such) in other branches,” he added.

Terming the matter as “sensitive”, Mehta said the bank has sought some “breathing time” from the related parties to bring the culprits to book.

The PNB chief said the finance ministry was taking stock of the matter on a day-to-day basis and would “come down heavily in support of booking the culprits”.

“We have the capabilities and capacities to come out of the situation,” he said.

“We have not only lodged the complaint against the culprits, we have also lodged complaint against our staff who were involved in the matter,” Mehta said.

“We are confident and committed to resolve the issue. We will honour all our bonafide commitments. We will not shirk our responsibilities,” he added.

Regarding recovery of the amount, Mehta said: “We have already initiated the process. ED is also seizing the properties, seizing the current assets and we hope good amount we will be able to recover.”

He further added: that “LOU (Letter of Undertaking) has not been converted into funded transaction so far, so it is a contingent liability… This matter we will decide after the completion of the investigation. If the investigation process say it is your liability, we will accept it.

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