Relief for PMC Bank depositors as RBI-appointed administrator moves to sell attached assets

A planned auction will be held, after the city police get approval to hand over assets to the RBI.

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India-appointed administrator has asked the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police to release properties attached in the Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank case so that they can be auctioned, a move that could provide relief to aggrieved account holders.

The city police will soon seek court approval to hand over the assets to the RBI administrator, two people with knowledge of the matter told ET.

“We have received a communique from the RBI asking us to de-attach the properties in the PMC case. We have given them an in-principle no-objection certificate,” EOW chief Rajvardhan Sinha told ET, confirming the developments.


Another official said the police will approach the competent court by the end of this week to release all provisionally attached movable and immovable property, estimated to be worth over Rs 3,500 crore.

Wadhawans have Given Consent to Auction

“If auctioned, the proceeds of the sale could be infused in the bank and distributed among the depositors on a pro rata basis,” said another senior official with knowledge of the matter.
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JB Bhoria, the RBI-appointed administrator, declined to comment. The RBI said it had no comment.

“The administrator would have taken a decision as he would have deemed fit. As such it’s an internal matter of the bank,” said an official.

The planned auction will be carried out under provisions of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest (Sarfaesi) Act, 2002, which allows banks and financial institutions to sell properties of defaulters to recover loans, the two people said.

“A sizeable chunk of the depositors are from the lower income group and an early auction will ease their financial load,” one person said.
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The RBI placed PMC Bank under restrictions after a Rs 4,355-crore scam surfaced and capped withdrawals by account holders. Authorities are probing the alleged criminal conspiracy between some officials of PMC Bank and Housing Development Infrastructure Ltd promoters Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan.

The Wadhawans have already given their consent to selling the 18 attached assets, including two private jets, a speed boat and a fleet of high-end cars. In a letter dated October 16 to the finance ministry, the RBI and probe agencies including EOW and the Enforcement Directorate, they sought monetisation of the attached assets at “fair market value”.
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“We further give our unconditional consent for the appropriation of the money received from the sale of these assets to be adjusted and appropriated towards the principal loan amount procured by us and the respective companies,” they said in the letter, which ET has reviewed.

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“Since the accused have already given their consent, the auction won’t face a court battle as seen in cases pertaining to Vijay Mallya or Nirav Modi,” one official said.

DIRECTORS’ ROLE UNDER SCANNER
The city police found that while most directors were aware of the loans extended to HDIL, they refused to raise red flags. The EOW recently arrested a former director, SS Arora, and has summoned the entire suspended board of directors in the case.

“A few of them have written to us claiming innocence and in some cases have also moved court seeking anticipatory bail. However, they need to explain why 70% of the depositors’ money was given to only one borrower — HDIL — and why they never scrutinised the loan accounts,” the official said.

The former directors need to be questioned to ascertain if they were aware of all the facts, including the alleged tampering with the bank’s core banking solution to operate 44 accounts that were password protected, said the official. These “ghost accounts” were linked to the HDIL group and the loans sanctioned to these accounts eventually made it to HDIL or the personal accounts of the two promoters.

“We want to probe if there was a deliberate act of omission. Also, if there were instances of quid pro quo,” the official added.

Those summoned in the case include BJP leader Tara Singh’s son, Ranjeet Singh. The directors had earlier denied any knowledge of the alleged irregularities.

THE CASE
The fraud at PMC Bank came to light after the RBI discovered that the lender had allegedly created over 21,000 fictitious accounts to hide over Rs 4,300 crore of loans extended to almost-bankrupt HDIL.

A manager of the bank, on behalf of the RBI-appointed administrator, then filed a case with the EOW. The HDIL promoters, suspended PMC Bank managing director Joy Thomas, its former chairman Waryam Singh and director Arora have been arrested by the EOW.
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