RBI bans all Indian banks from issuing LoUs, LoCs

Shobana Kamineni President of Confederation of Indian Industry

Shobana Kamineni President of Confederation of Indian Industry

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ordered commercial banks on Tuesday to stop issuing guarantees in the form of letters of undertaking (LoU) with immediate effect.

After the unearthing of the PNB fraud, an RBI notification last month said: "The risks arising from the potential malicious use of the SWIFT infrastructure has always been a component of their operational risk profile".

According to recent reports, Punjab National Bank (PNB) has written a letter to Nirav Modi, the kingpin behind the largest banking scam, to repay the entire amount as soon as possible and also expressed their views of not agreeing to any kind of settlement with him.

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A multi-agency probe, including by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been launched into the PNB fraud.

LoUs are bank guarantees through which a bank allows customers to raise money from another Indian bank's foreign branch as short-term credit. The guaranties are given for import of all non-capital goods permissible under the Foreign Trade Policy (except gold), and up to three years for import of capital goods.

The RBI has taken other fraud-control measures like bringing out a framework for dealing with loan frauds above Rs 50 crore, creating an online Central Fraud Registry, issuing caution advice detailing names of fraudsters and their modus operandi and ordering banks to re-verify the title deeds for all credit exposures above Rs 5 crore.

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An unidentified lawyer for Choksi told Reuters that he was unaware of the new allegations, and refused to comment.

The RBI issued the directive on LoUs and LoCs on Tuesday, about a month after it was discovered that diamond merchants Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi had misused LoUs issued by PNB to defraud the bank of over $2 billion.

During issuance of LoU, there are four parties involved - issuing bank, receiving bank, importer and beneficiary entity overseas.

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