March 9, 2018 / 10:48 AM / 6 months ago

Before mega scam, India's PNB lost $431 million to fraud last fiscal year

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s Punjab National Bank (PNBK.NS) lost 28 billion rupees (312.25 million pounds) to various frauds last fiscal year, the government said on Friday, making it the biggest such loser among all state-owned banks even before it uncovered an alleged $2 billion fraud this year.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past a Punjab National Bank office in Mumbai, India February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

The country’s second-biggest state-owned bank in February accused two high-profile jewellers and their companies of colluding with rogue bank employees to secure credit from overseas lenders using fraudulent guarantees between 2010 and 2017.

FILE PHOTO: A man leaves an automated teller machine (ATM) facility of Punjab National Bank (PNB) in New Delhi, India, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal/File Photo

This has been dubbed as the biggest bank fraud in India’s history, but the finance ministry told parliament that even before the fraud came to light, state banks lost a total of 195.33 billion rupees to 2,718 cases of fraud in the year that ended on March 31, 2017.

Punjab National, better known as PNB, alone reported 158 cases of fraud in 2016/17, the ministry said. PNB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In monetary terms PNB was followed by Bank of India (BOI.NS), which lost 27.7 billion rupees, and State Bank of India (SBI.NS) that lost 24.2 billion rupees, the ministry said.

The ministry did not specify the nature of the frauds but added that the central bank recently formed an expert committee to look into “factors leading to increasing incidence of frauds in banks and the measures needed to curb and prevent it”.

The committee will also look into the role of auditors in checking frauds.

Reuters reported last month that India’s state-run banks reported 8,670 “loan fraud” cases totalling 612.6 billion rupees over the last five financial years up to March 31, 2017.

In India, loan fraud typically refers to cases where the borrower intentionally tries to deceive the lending bank and does not repay the loan.

A parliamentary committee on finance said in a report on Friday that it was “extremely concerned about the recent fraud detected in Punjab National Bank, which clearly reflects that a small group of individuals can manipulate such a gigantic bank and compromise it despite such well laid out norms, guidelines, checks and balances.”

Reporting by Nigam Prusty; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Euan Rocha and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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