Owner of Gitanjali Gems, Mehul Choksi, expressed his "helplessness" in a letter to his employees, stating that he would be unable to clear their dues in lieu of the ongoing probe in the Rs 114 billion-Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud.
Choksi, in a communication to over 3,500 employees, said it would be "very tough" to clear dues of his employees or pay future salaries, as investigative agencies had seized his bank accounts and other properties, adding that the manner of investigation was starting to create havoc, and was hell-bent on stopping the operations.
Choksi, in his letter issued by his advocate, Sanjay Abbott, suggested to employees that in view of the uncertainty looming overpayment of dues, termination of office operations, and "unfair investigation", they begin scouting for alternate career options.
Abbot said: “Letter was written because everything has been sealed/seized my client is not in a position to operate any account to pay the employees. So it was written to tell them that they are free,” according to news agency ANI.
Yes, we are in touch. That is a privilege communication between me and my client, I am not supposed to disclose. I have no idea where is he: Sanjay Abbot, Lawyer of #MehulChoksi on his whereabouts pic.twitter.com/pxDNf4YEvz— ANI (@ANI) February 24, 2018
Here are the details of Mehul Choksi’s letter:
1. "I am constrained to write the present email to you all concerned, as a situation of fear and injustice has been created against me and our organisation," wrote Choksi.
2. "But, now, with false allegations levelled against me of defrauding the PNB Bank and media frenzy, the situation has gone grave, which is turning graver by day.”
3. "It is very tough for me, as of now, to be clearing your dues or to pay the future salaries, in view of the seizing of various bank accounts and other properties by the government agencies/ investigating agencies."
4. "Though I am aware that a lot of hard work has been put by you all to bring our organisation to where it is today, but as of now, I am facing a lot of problems due to the manner in which the multiple investigating agencies/ government agencies have started to create a havoc, hell bent upon stopping the operations.”
5. "However, the fact remains that as of today, the justice that I deserve is far off, as it shall take time to prove my innocence, and the future seems uncertain presently."
6. "I will face my destiny and I know that I have done nothing wrong, and ultimately, the truth shall prevail. But I do not want anybody to get even a shadow of adversity or injustice just because of their association with me."
7. "Investigating agencies seem to be interested not in a fair investigation but in creating a fear psychosis within my employees. The kind of unfair treatment, unfair investigation, media frenzy and political statements are making me highly insecure about the safety of myself and my family members."
8. "I reiterate that I am committed to clear your past dues, if any, once things return to normalcy."
9. He further said the companies HR has been instructed to issue relieving letters and experience certificates if the employees require it.
10. The top businessman also clarified that laptops, mobile phones issued by the organisation can remain with employees until dues were cleared, adding that relieving letters and experience certificates would be issued to them when necessary.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had conducted raids on the premises of the 89-hectare Hyderabad Gems SEZ, owned by the Gitanjali group. This hit the employees worst as 1,200 workers from Raviryal village lost their jobs, reported Business Standard on Saturday. Amongst these, 700 workers were mostly differently-abled and women.
As per the assessee's own valuation, the property is worth about Rs 12 billion (Rs 1,200 crore).
“Nobody offered any solution when we started protests at the office premises after we lost our work over a week ago. Then, our MLA visited us and offered support, but we still don’t know if someone will be able to get our jobs back,” a 33-year-old Sultana, differently-abled, told Business Standard reporter B Dasarath Reddy.
Most of these workers are skilled in diamond polishing and don’t know how to do anything else. Started in 2006, the diamond polish units at Hyderabad Gems SEZ largely engaged people from neighbouring villages. A state labour department official said the matter was under the jurisdiction of the SEZ Development Commissioner and it is for them to find a solution.
PNB had detected a Rs 114 billion (Rs 11,400 crore) scam earlier this month, in which noted jewellery designer Nirav Modi acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking from one of its branches for overseas credit from other Indian lenders. Choksi, Modi's uncle, is also being probed for his involvement in the fraud.
PNB lodged two financial fraud complaints of Rs 114 billion and Rs 2.8 billion (Rs 280 crore) against Nirav Modi, his family members and the owner of Gitanjali Gems.
After the case was registered, the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have swung into action.
Meanwhile, the ED on Friday froze assets of Nirav Modi worth Rs 438.6 million (Rs 43.86 crore).
With agency inputs