Mumbai, Mar 7: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday arrested the “main protagonist” in the alleged Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud. 48-year-old Vipul Chitalia, vice president of the Gitanjali Group of Companies, was dubbed as the “brain behind the conspiracy”, along with MD Mehul Choksi, by the investigation agency during his remand hearing in the special CBI court.
Chitalia was caught when he landed at the Mumbai airport from Bangkok. The Gitanjali VP has been sent in CBI custody until March 17. He had left India for Bangkok in the last week of January. The investigation agency had issued a lookout notice against him along with Nirav Modi and uncle-cum-business partner Mehul Choksi. Chitalia, however, didn’t know a lookout notice was issued against him.
When he thought he had managed to escape the fraud and came back to India, he was detained by the immigration authorities at the airport and was then handed over to the police. In the special CBI court, Chitalia didn’t have anyone representing him. (Also Read: Nirav Modi’s Firm Moves Delhi High Court Against ED Case in PNB Scam)
“The accused is not named in the FIR and there is no documents to connect the accused with the crime thus custodial interrogation is not necessary,” his lawyer said.
Chitalia, according to the CBI, was the “main protagonist” in preparing the applications for obtaining the letters of understanding (LoUs). “Apart from Choksi, he was the mastermind and authorised signatory of Gitanjali Gems. He knew fraudulently transactions and had tried to hide all the evidence,” said public prosecutor A Limosin.
The CBI also believes that Chitalia did know about the fraud LoUs that helped Choksi seek loans from the Punjab National Bank (PNB). In fact, the agency believes that it was Chitalia who had ordered the employees (juniors) to get LoUs.
“There is every reason to believe that he along with Mehul Choksi is the brain behind this conspiracy and that there are documents within the knowledge of Chitalia that need to be recovered,” the agency said.
Nirav Modi’s firm Firestar Diamond on Tuesday challenged the money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at the Delhi High Court in connection with the over Rs 12,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.