File picture of a Punjab National Bank (PNB) branch in Delhi. After being scammed for $2b by Nirav Modi, the jeweller, the bank has now filed a complaint about yet another bad exposure. (Picture for file purposes.) Image Credit: Reuters

Mumbai (Bloomberg): Scandal-hit Indian lender Punjab National Bank alleged it has been cheated - its third complaint since 2018 when it suffered through a $2 billion blow.

The state-run bank filed a complaint in October alleging that Jagdish Khattar, founder of Carnation Auto India Pvt., a vehicle repair and servicing company, cheated the bank of 1.1 billion rupees ($15.4 million), according to a copy of the complaint posted on the Central Bureau of Investigation’s website.

The embattled lender disclosed a 38-billion-rupee fraud against Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd. in July, roughly one year after a massive fraud at the bank that was allegedly perpetrated by jeweler-to-the-stars Nirav Modi.

Punjab National, battling a surge in bad debt, had reported an alleged fraudulent transaction in July as well. In the latest complaint, the lender alleged that Khattar, a former managing director of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., the nation’s biggest carmaker, colluded with some bank officials to cheat Punjab National.

“Carnation is a bonafide business failure,” Khattar said in a text message. “There is no wrongdoing. A detailed forensic audit was conducted earlier this year by a leading independent auditor and nothing amiss was found.”

Flooded by bad loans

The lender has categorized Carnation’s account as a bad loan with effect from June 30, 2012, according to the complaint. The fraud-hit bank’s gross bad loan ratio rose to 16.8 per cent as of September from 16.5 per cent at June.

Punjab National Bank “has now referred it to CBI as a part of the process followed by them,” Khattar said. “Search was conducted by CBI but nothing incriminating was found. We will be vindicated once the investigation is completed.”

A unit of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., India’s biggest maker of SUVs, bought the main assets of Carnation last year, excluding liabilities.