The Congress on Tuesday stepped up the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over banking fraud cases, claiming that names of fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi and his maternal uncle Mehul Choksi — accused in the Rs 13,500-crore Punjab National Bank scam — were on a list of high-profile fraud cases that former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan had submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The Opposition party alleged that the PMO did not act on the list and accused it of “helping” the two flee the country.
Addressing a press conference, Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala claimed that complaints regarding “serious fraud” being committed by the Gitanjali Group, promoted by Choksi, had reached the PMO as early as in May 2015, but the PMO did not take any action. Rajan was RBI governor for three years till September 2016.
Referring to Rajan’s note to Chairman of Estimates Committee Murli Manohar Joshi, the Congress leader said, the then RBI governor had set up a “fraud reporting and monitoring authority in 2016 and had sent a list of high-profile fraud cases to the PMO”.
“By 2015 and 2016, seven complaints had reached the PMO. Rajan, in his list, according to our information, included the names of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi,” Surjewala said.
Seeking a reply from the Central government for not taking any action on the list, Surjewala asked: “Why did the PMO not act despite the complaints in 2015 and 2016 and not direct the External Affairs Ministry, CBI, ED, SEBI or SFIO to take action? Does it not put a question mark on the role of the PMO? Why did PMO wait till March 2018 to get a report on the fraud by Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi? Does it not prove their complicity in the matter?”
The Congress leader also questioned why the SEBI gave a “clean chit” to Choksi to help him secure the citizenship of Antigua. “Why did the CBI or ED not move the Interpol for a warrant against Choksi or provide the requisite evidence of criminal fraud against him? Is it not correct that this deliberate failure on part of the CBI and ED, in providing evidence to Interpol, had led the latter to giving a clean chit to Choksi?” he asked.
Referring to Rajan’s remarks on non-performing assets (NPAs), Surjewala said it was wrong to say that the UPA governments’ functioning led to increased NPAs in India’s banking structure.
“When the UPA demitted office, the NPAs stood at Rs 2,83,000 crore, which was controllable…A reply by the government to Parliament in March said bad loans have gone up to Rs 10.3 lakh crore. And bad loans have now reached Rs 12 lakh crore….Rs 9.17 lakh crore are the bad loans/NPAs in the 52 months of Modi government,” he said.
Hitting back at the Prime Minister, who had alleged that UPA’s phone-a-loan scam was the reason for mounting bad loans, Surjewala said, “Modi has devised a new formula, which is called wink-a-loan. He looks and the banks grant loan to his crony capitalist friends. It does not even have to be stated. This Rs 9.17 lakh crore NPAs is a result of all the loaning as also the decimation of economy on account of the faulty economic policies,” he said.