CBI arrests Vipul Chitalia, Gitanjali VP, dubs him ‘Brain Behind PNB fraud’

The CBI on Tuesday arrested the 48-year-old vice president of the Gitanjali Group of Companies in the alleged Rs 12,600 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case. During his remand hearing before the special CBI court later in the day, the investigating agency dubbed the accused Vipul Chitalia the “main protagonist of the fraud” and “brain behind the conspiracy” alongwith chairman and managing director, Mehul Choksi. Special judge SR Tamboli sent Chitalia to CBI custody until March 17.
Chitalia is the 19th accused to be arrested in the case. The CBI has registered two separate FIRs in the fraud and most of the accused are common in both the instances. The first FIR is against Nirav Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal and uncle Mehul Choksi along with others. The second FIR focused on Mehul Choksi, Gitanjali Gems and others.
The CBI told the court that the defrauding in the Choksi related matter which was initially pegged at Rs 4,886 crore finally amounted to Rs 6,138 crore on February 22 after the PNB made an additional complaint where it alleged that the fraud with the respect to the Foreign Letter of Credit (FLC) had increased by another 1,251 crore.
Chitalia was intercepted by the immigration authorities at Mumbai airport following his arrival from Bangkok on Tuesday morning after which he was handed over to the CBI. A Look Out Circular (LOC) was issued earlier against Chitalia, Choksi and others. The CBI said that Chitalia had gone to Bangkok on January 26.
During the remand hearing on Tuesday, CBI special prosecutor A Limosin told the court that Chitalia was directly reporting to Choksi and was an authorized signatory of the company.
Seeking his custody, the agency submitted that Chitalia was instrumental in preparing the applications for putting through the fraudulent transactions of the Letter of Undertaking (LoUs) and FLC.
It said that this was done with the active connivance of PNB deputy manager, arrested co accused Gokulnath Shetty (61) and unknown others.
“He was directly getting the same done through Nitin Shahi, the assistant finance manager of the Gitanjali group, working under him. He is also privy to the modalities for putting through the transactions along with Choksi who has fled the country and evading the process of law,” the CBI said. The investigating agency said that he was looking after the entire banking operations for the group. The CBI alleged in the court that he was instrumental in hiding incriminating documents.
Chitalia did not have a lawyer present in court and was provided one through Legal Aid on the court’s orders. A family member informed the court that his lawyer would be present at the next hearing.