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Scandal-hit Punjab National Bank uncovers fresh 38b-rupee fraud

New Delhi

INDIA'S beleaguered state-run lender Punjab National Bank (PNB) disclosed another incident of fraud amounting to 38 billion rupees (S$755 million), roughly one year after it suffered through the country's costliest banking scandal.

The new case relates to the non-performing assets of insolvent Indian firm Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd, PNB said in a filing on Saturday. It reported the fraud to the Reserve Bank of India and made provisions worth 19.3 billion rupees.

PNB said Bhushan misappropriated bank funds and manipulated account books to raise money from consortium lender banks. A vast majority of the fraud took place at PNB's Chandigarh branch, and also involved offices in Hong Kong and Dubai. The bank said it expects a "good recovery" from the insolvency case, which is currently before the National Company Law Tribunal.

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The announcement is a fresh blow to PNB, which uncovered India's biggest-ever bank fraud last year. That nearly US$2 billion scandal was allegedly perpetrated by jeweller-to-the-stars Nirav Modi, who was arrested by UK police at the request of Indian authorities and is embroiled in an extradition process. Nirav Modi denies wrongdoing.

The sheer size of the fraud at the bank, as well as the jeweller's presence in a large delegation at a Davos photo opportunity alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fuelled accusations that the ruling party took a lax approach to the country's globe-trotting industrialists.

Narendra Modi's party, which won an even bigger parliamentary majority in May, denied those claims. BLOOMBERG