PNB scam: SFIO summons ICICI chief Chanda Kochhar for questioning

Indian benchmark indices end negative for fourth consecutive session, RBI penalizes Axis Bank and Indian Overseas Bank

They were summoned in connection with loans given to Gitanjali Gems owned by Mehul Choksi.

Vipul Chitalia, Vice President in charge of banking operations at the Gitanjali Group - one of the jewelry firms named in the fraud - was detained at Mumbai airport on Tuesday for questioning, a CBI spokesman said. Meanwhile, the ICICI Bank has said its exposure to the Gitanjali Group is not the largest among the consortium lenders.

The CBI told the court that its investigation had found that the fraudulent issuance of letters of undertaking (LoUs), or guarantees, through a Mumbai branch of the bank had been going on since 2010.

The SFIO has written to the top managements of all the lenders who have either given loans or extended any other services, sources said, adding that the total number could be around 35. But, in case of a default, the bank that has issued the LoU has to pay the liability to the credit giving bank along with the accruing the interest.

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The central bank also said the action on the two commercial banks is based on deficiencies in regulatory compliance "and is not meant to pronounce upon the validity of any transaction or agreement entered into by the bank with its customers".

India's opposition parties have been questioning how the government let them leave when investigations had already begun in the case. These include ICICI bank head Chanda Kocchar and PNB bank MD and CEO Sunil Mehta.

"SFIO has today sought information on the accounts of the Nirav Modi & Gitanjali groups of companies", Axis Bank said in a statement to the stock exchanges.

The CBI had earlier questioned ICICI Bank executive director NS Kanan as part of its probe.

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Both Modi and Choksi are alleged to have frauded Punjab National Bank with Rs 12,600 crore.

Though Modi has not yet been arrested, India's External Affairs Ministry has revoked his passport as well as Choksi's for their involvement in the scam.

Chitalia was brought to the Central Bureau of Investigation office at the Bandra-Kurla Complex for interrogation. It does not have any exposure to companies linked with Modi. ICICI Bank, with a loan of Rs 405 crore reportedly, was a lead banker in this consortium and Axis Bank too had a major exposure in it.

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