The beleaguered public sector Punjab National Bank (PNB) has admitted to 1,142 big and small defaulters all over India who have defaulted a stupendous Rs 25,090.3 crore.
Of these 1,142, the PNB has so far initiated recovery proceedings by filing suits against 1,108 defaulters to recover ₹23,879.8 crore.
However, no suits have been filed against the remaining 34 defaulters who owe the bank ₹1,210.5 crore.
As is mandatory, the RBI has been informed of the status of all these messy accounts -- some of them several years old and recoveries still pending from them -- as on March 31, 2019.
The veritable ‘hit-list' prepared by the country's second largest PSB covers all defaulters owing PNB ₹25 lakh and above, through all its branches in all states, with the highest numbers emerging from Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Mysteriously, some companies which availed of loans are shown as registered abroad, while others which are registered in India have taken loans from the PNB from its overseas branches.
Interestingly, the list of debt-dodgers goes beyond the duo of absconding diamantaires Nirav D. Modi and Mehul C. Choksi - whose scams worth around ₹14,000-crore first brought the PNB imbroglio into the limelight in early 2018.
Also figuring in the list is another high-profile absconder, Vijay Mallya, who owes ₹597.4 crore on the defunct Kingfisher Airlines account.
The other defaulters include Kudos Chemie Ltd., Chandigarh (₹1,301.8 crore), Winsome Diamonds & Jewellery Ltd. Surat (₹899.7 crore), Jas Infrastructure & Power Ltd., Kolkata (₹410.9 crore), Zoom Developers Pvt. Ltd. Mumbai/Indore (₹410.1 crore).
A few defaulters like Kingfisher Airlines, Winsome Diamonds & Jewellery Ltd, Kudos Chemie Ltd. and Zoom Developers Pvt. Ltd. are currently being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
When contacted by IANS, PNB officials declined to comment on the list of defaulters.
Recently, the PNB has initiated proceedings to recover around USD 13 million from the Tarapur Textile Park Ltd., Palghar (Maharashtra), which availed the loans from PNB's London branch.
According to official sources, now the PNB is planning to hand over the case to both CBI and the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) and invoke the guarantees provided by TTPL's Chairman Arunkmar Muchhala, and the directors Ritika Muchhala and Trinkal Muchhala.
With reference to this instance, the buzz in banking circles is - how companies registered in India availed massive loans from PNB's foreign branches, and similarly, how companies registered on foreign shores were granted loans from the bank's Indian branches, without the connivance of certain officials.
The All India Bank Employees Association General Secretary C. H. Venkatachalam termed as "a very serious matter that one bank has such a massive number of defaulters of public money".
"Plus, it is not confined to one bank and all banks have such bad loan accounts. A bulk of defaulters are corporates or big companies and a forensic audit of all should be carried out. Why can't the bank file criminal cases against the big-time willful defaulters instead of merely civil suits which can drag on for years," Venkatachalam told IANS.