Former Punjab National Bank (PNB) managing director and chief executing Usha Ananthasubramanian and other senior bank officials had been aware of diamond merchant Nirav Modi's "fraudulent" dealings but kept "misleading" the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has alleged in its 12,000-page charge sheet.
A special CBI court took cognizance of the charge sheet on Monday and permitted the investigating agency to issue fresh non-bailable warrants against Nirav Modi, his brother Nishal and Subhash Parab, an executive of the Nirav Modi Group.
In its charge sheet into the nearly Rs 130-billion scam, the CBI said the RBI had since October 2016 sent several questionnaires to the PNB, seeking to know what procedures or measures the bank follows before issuing Letters of Understandings and Letters of Credit.
"This was duly dealt by accused Ananthasubramanian and the bank's Executive Directors - K V Brahmaji Rao, Sanjiv Sharan and Nehal Ahad and instead of replying to the queries in true spirit and facts, Ahad and the general manager of the International Banking Division of the bank's headquarters prepared a misleading reply and sent it to the RBI after getting the same approved from Sharan," the CBI said.
The 12,000-page charge sheet further claimed that a similar fraud was detected in 2016 following which the RBI took up the issue and issued circulars to all banks.
"The accused PNB officials, including Ananthasubramanian and others, were aware of this fraud involving PNB Dubai and the Indian Overseas Bank Chandigarh and yet they did not take any corrective action and remained silent spectators. This facilitated continuance of the fraud resulting in wrongful loss to the PNB," it said.
From August 2015 to May 2017, when Ananthasubramanian was the MD and CEO of the PNB, relevant circulars, caution notices and urgent questionnaires issued by the RBI were brought to her notice and she dealt with the same, the CBI said.
"Inspite of her knowledge about the modus operandi in these frauds, she (Ananthasubramanian) did not take any meaningful corrective measures in her capacity as the executive head of the bank and had unauthorizedly delegated the RBI guidelines work to her subordinates without any follow up action," the charge sheet said.
The CBI has further claimed that senior officers from the Nirav Modi Group including accused Vipul Ambani were constantly meeting Ananthasubramanian in order to continue with the credit facilities to the group.
"This indicated clearly that she (Ananthasubramanian) was aware of the facilities extended to the various group entities of Modi," it said.
The agency said the accused bank officials held supervisory roles in the bank and had through their acts facilitated the issuance of the fraudulent LOUs.
"The fact that bank official Gokulnath Shetty continued to issue fraudulent LOUs with impunity despite issuance of several RBI circulars indicates an environment of protection he enjoyed in the form of lack of reconciliation and absence of bank visits by seniors," the CBI said.
The patronage extended by the senior officials of the bank to the accused persons working in the PNB Brady House branch of Mumbai resulted in a huge wrongful loss to the bank and wrongful gain to the accused persons, it said.
"MD and CEO Usha Ananthasubramanian and other senior bank officials by failing to take any precautions or preventive steps to prevent the fraud perpetrated by firms controlled by Nirav Modi thereby committed criminal misconduct in conspiracy with the other accused persons," CBI alleged.