PNB scam: Gitanjali VP, Vipul Chitalia, arrested at international airport by CBI

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One of the alleged masterminds of the Rs 12,636 crore Punjab National Bank money laundering scam and vice president of the Gitanjali group of companies, Vipul Chitalia, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) when he arrived at the Mumbai international airport from Bangkok in the early hours of Tuesday.

The arrest was made on the basis of a look-out circular issued by the agencies. CBI has described him as the brain of the conspiracy along with Mehul Choksi, chairman and managing director of the Gitanjali Group and uncle of Nirav Modi, with officials terming his arrest as a significant one. Chitalia had escaped to Dubai in first week of January along with Choksi, officials said.

Remanded in custodyChitalia was arrested at the airport and then taken to CBI's office in Bandra-Kurla Complex, where after questioning, he was put under arrest because he gave evasive answers. He was produced before a special CBI court and remanded in police custody till March 17.

Along with Chitalia, CBI also rearrested Gokulnath Shetty, retired deputy manager of PNB's Brady House branch, in the second FIR in the case. Shetty has also been termed as one of the masterminds and prepared over 150 letters of undertaking (LOUs) apart from some foreign letters of credit (FLCs) while working at PNB's Brady House Branch. Shetty has been booked for not following banking procedures while issuing fraudulent LOUs and FLCs.

At the heart of the scamCBI officials claim Chitalia was directly in touch with Choksi. As per officials, Chitalia prepared the documents for LOUs and FLCs. From questioning other accused, the agency has found out the fraudulent documents were put through by Chitalia and Choksi. In addition to this, Shetty and Chitalia are at the heart of the scam and CBI suspects the two conspired to keep it going with other accused for over a decade without being detected.

CBI suspects Chitalia has some crucial and incriminating documents and his arrest could lead them to those documents. Significantly, the agency also believes Chitalia has knowledge about the end use of the money the accused took out of the country.

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