Probing a Rs 299-crore Indian Overseas Bank loan fraud case, similar to the alleged USD 2 billion worth PNB swindle, the Enforcement Directorate has found that the accused "paid" for the air travel and hotel stay of a senior bank manager and his family as kickbacks. The central probe agency said "lapses" were also detected on the part of at least three managers — Anil Kumar, P C Rana and N Chokalingam — of the IOB branch in Chandigarh, "as well as the concurrent auditors."
The ED case is related to its criminal money laundering investigation "in a case related to buyers credit fraud of Rs 299.14 crore at the IOB, Chandigarh".
The agency took congnisance of an FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to file a case under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against IOB Assistant Manager Ashu Mehra, properitor of heights international company Amanpreet Singh Sodhi, owner of vision procon company Dinesh Kumar and directors of a firm saibhakti impex Pvt ltd — Gaurav Kirpal and Aman Kirpal.
"A charge sheet was filed by the CBI against the accused revealing wrongful loss to the tune of Rs 299.14 crore to the bank on account of fraudulent unpaid LOUs (letter of undertaking) and that an amount of Rs 11.36 crore commission for 24 LOUs was also not received by the bank," the ED said.
A similar modus operandi of misusing the LOUs has been alleged by probe agencies in the Brady House branch (Mumbai) of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) that led to a fraud estimated to be worth USD 2 billion, which came to light in 2018. Diamond merchants Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi have been alleged as the masterminds of this swindling, identified as one of the biggest case of bank loan fraud in the country.
About the latest case, the ED said its probe found that the accused Amanpreet Singh Sodhi, Dinesh Kumar and Gaurav Kirpal "conspired" with IOB assistant manager Ashu Mehra "for illegal diversion of funds to the bank accounts of fraudulent buyers on behalf of Indian import firms."
"These amounts were first credited by the overseas funding bank — Bank of Baroda, Bahamas and PNB, Dubai — into the HSBC Account of the Hong Kong-based export company Colour Wave (HK) Ltd though no imports took place." "The accumulated amount in the HSBC Account was further remitted to India in the accounts of accused companies by showing it as adjustments for exports of third-party payments," the ED alleged.
It was found, the ED said, that the goods were either exported by the accused to different buyers or consignees by resorting "to gross over-valuation or in some cases there was "no export.
"In this manner the accused have generated the proceeds of crime by resorting to trade-based money laundering," the ED claimed. It was found that "payments for the air travels and hotel stays of the accused Ashu Mehra and his family members was borne by accused Dinesh Kumar and Gaurav Kirpal", the agency said.
The agency has attached properties worth over Rs 91 crore of various accused involved in the case till now, with an attachment of Rs 6.03 crore being done recently.