Nirav Modi has hit back at Punjab National Bank, saying its ‘overzealousness’ has shut the doors on his ability to clear his dues, which he claims are much lower than the Rs 11,400 crore that the bank has gone public with.
In a letter Modi wrote to the bank’s management on February 15/16, he pegged the amount his companies owe the bank at under Rs 5,000 crore.
“The erroneously cited liability resulted in a media frenzy which led to immediate search and seizure of operations, and which in turn resulted in Firestar International and Firestar Diamond International effectively ceasing to be going-concerns. This thereby jeopardised our ability to discharge the dues of the group to the banks,” Modi, who left the country along with his family in the first week of January, wrote.
“In the anxiety to recover your dues immediately, despite my offer (on February 13, a day before the public announcement, and on February 15,) your actions have destroyed my brand and the business and have now restricted your ability to recover all the dues leaving a trail of unpaid debts,” he wrote.
The letter also referred to the extended discussions between him, his representatives and bank officials, as well as his emails on February 13 and 15. PNB, the country’s second largest public sector bank, on February 14 informed the stock exchanges that it had detected a Rs 11,400 crore fraud at Mumbai’s Brady House branch and named the firms led by Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi‘s Gitanjali Group. The bank has also filed criminal complaints with CBI and the ED, both of which launched nationwide searches on dozens of offices and residences of the alleged fraudsters. The bank has named Nirav Modi’s brother, his wife Ami, an American national, and uncle besides some others in the FIR.
On the size of the fraud claimed by PNB in the FIR, Modi said, “As you are aware, this is entirely incorrect and the liability of the Nirav Modi Group is substantially less. Even after your complaint was filed, in good faith I wrote to you saying please sell/allow me to sell Firestar Group, or their valuable assets, and recover the dues not just from Firestar Group, but also from the three firms.”
Valuing his domestic business at around Rs 6,500 crore, he wrote, “This could have helped reduce/discharge the debt to the banking system,” but quickly added that this was no longer possible as all his bank accounts had been frozen and assets sealed or seized.
He said PNB had time and again acknowledged that “the buyers credit facility has been extended by it to the three partnership firms since several years; that there has been no default on the part of any of these firms over all these years; that money has gone through PNB over all these years for the repayments of the advances given by the overseas bank branches under the buyers credit…That Firestar International and Firestar Diamond International have never been in default to any bank, and the bankers are fully secured.”
He stated that PNB has over the years been earning bank charges to the tune of crores of rupees on the buyers credit facility extended by it to the three partnership firms and that PNB had extended the money to the firm’s buyers as well from where also it had been receiving full payments, with interest and on time, all these years.
On the valuables worth Rs 5,649 crore that CB and ED searches had yielded, he wrote, “These, and other assets of the group and the three firms could have settled all the amounts due to banks. However, now that stage appears to have passed.”
He concluded by requesting the bank to “be fair, and support my efforts to make good all the amounts that are found due by my group to all banks.”
He said the bank had wrongly named his brother, who was not at all concerned with the operations of the three firms or any other. “My wife is not connected with any business operations at all and she has been wrongly named. My uncle is also wrongly named in this complaint since he has an independent and unconnected business and none of them are aware or concerned with my dealings with your bank.”
“Whatever may be the consequences I may face for my actions, the haste was, in my humble submission, unwarranted,” Modi wrote, requesting the bank to permit payment of salaries to 2,200 employees from the balance lying in the current accounts.