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14 March 2018, 12:36 | Henrietta Morgan
Mumbai: In a major decision, the RBI on Tuesday banned banks from issuing Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) - instruments used allegedly by diamantaire Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi to defraud state-owned PNB of almost Rs 13,000 crore in conniva-nce of bank officials.
The move comes weeks after fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi allegedly committed India's biggest bank fraud.
The RBI has taken other fraud-control measures like bringing out a framework for dealing with loan frauds above Rs 50 crore, creating an online Central Fraud Registry, issuing caution advices detailing names of fraudsters and their modus operandi and ordering banks to re-verify the title deeds for all credit exposures above Rs 5 crore.
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The PNB, however, later issued a clarification stating that the Rs 942 crore was not a "new fraud" but recall of credit limits. The fraudulent issuance of LoUs came to light when one of the branch officials asked the firms associated with the diamantaires to furnish at least 100 per cent cash margin for issuing LoUs.
"Letters of Credit and Bank Guarantees for Trade Credits for imports into India may continue to be issued, subject to compliance with the provisions contained in Department of Banking Regulation Master Circular on "Guarantees and Co-acceptances", as amended from time to time", It added.
It is alleged that of various 143 unauthorised and fraudulent Letters of Undertaking were issued in favour of overseas branches of Indian banks and the value of 313 purported Foreign Letters of Credit was enhanced in favour of foreign suppliers of the accused companies. Indian corporates use LoUs to make payments to those companies from which they buy goods to send to India.
Coming back to discontinuance, the central bank's decision is expected to impact businesses who are depended on imports, and needed LoUs for opting bank guarantees.
Earlier in the day, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha said that Nirav Modi obtained his first fraudulent guarantee from PNB's Brady House branch in Mumbai on March 10, 2011 and managed to get 1,212 more such guarantees over the next 74 months.
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