PNB ruined Gitanjali Gems to hide its misdeeds: Choksi

New Delhi: Key accused in the PNB fraud case, Mehul Choksi on Thursday said the state-run Punjab National Bank intentionally “destroyed” Gitanjali Gems, the luxury brand owned by him, with an aim to hide its “own wrongdoings”.

He said that the company should not have been taken for liquidation and kept afloat instead, even if he were to be found guilty.

“Gitanjali Gems was cynically destroyed by the PNB in a diabolical maneuver to divert attention from its own wrongdoings,” Choksi said in a statement.

“As the authorities begin proceedings to liquidate Gitanjali Gems and related brands — Gili, Nakshatra and Asmi — to recover the dues of over Rs 12,558 crores Gitanjali owes to banks, an elaborate cover-up comes full-circle,” he added.

He said notwithstanding the company’s “strong” balance sheet, and a “stellar” track record of loan repayments, in February 2018, prompted by allegations by Punjab National Bank, which was looking to apportion blame for its own failure, investigating agencies raided and seized Gitanjali assets.

The fugitive diamantaire said the employees of Gitanjali were harassed and its stocks and servers were confiscated, thereby losing the possibilities of recovering the outstanding dues owed to the company.

“The one thing I want to ask everyone who has accused me is even if I were guilty, why did no one even try to save Gitanjali, a company with Rs 12,000 crore of annual turnover, 6,000 employees and countless honors in its name? Could someone from the Indian Gems and Jewelry Council not have been tasked with running the brand? This process of liquidation is a result of the rashness displayed by PNB in its investigation,” Choksi said.

The statement said that Choksi’s culpability is yet to be proved in the court of law and the involvement of Gitanjali Gems has not been proved either.

Choksi absconded after the Rs 14,000-crore PNB fraud came to light in January last year, whereby the primary accused were diamantaires Nirav Modi and Choksi himself.

Both absconded after the revelation of the fraud. While Modi was arrested in Britain last month, Choksi is still ensconced in the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Last month, Choksi in a statement said the actual culprits of the fraud are roaming free and are being protected, while he has been implicated without any evidence.