A day after the Punjab National Bank flagged off fraudulent transactions worth over Rs 11,000 crore in its Mumbai branch in a case related to billionaire diamond jeweller Nirav Modi and his firms, Congress launched a scathing attack against the Centre on Thursday. Addressing a press conference, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it had become a norm for the Narendra Modi government to let businessmen and corporates run away with public money. Nirav Modi is believed to have left the country on January 1.
Addressing the jeweller as ‘Chhota Modi’, Surjewala wondered if he was tipped off by someone within the government about the PNB complaint like former IPL czar Lalit Modi and business tycoon Vijay Mallya. “Was he tipped off like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya to escape by someone within the government? Has it become the norm for letting people run away with public money?” Surjewala said.
The Congress member also asked how could Modi dupe the banking system under the nose of the government, which has launched a fight against black money and benami transactions. “How can Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi dupe the entire banking system through forged Letters of Understanding under the nose of Modi govt?” he said and released a picture of the PM and Nirav Modi at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year.
However, hitting back at Congress, union minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “Whatever is coming out is the result of the previous UPA govt, action will be certainly taken on it.” Her colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad took strong exception to the word Chota Modi used by Surjewala to describe Nirav Modi. “What is this word ‘Chhota Modi’ ? BJP takes strong offence to the kind of language being used by describing someone like that. It is derogatory, scandalous and demeaning,” said Prasad.
The ‘fraud’ transactions of PNB detected on Wednesday, sources said, involved a few firms promoted by Modi who was initially booked by the CBI in an alleged Rs 280-crore cheating case after it received a complaint from the PNB on January 29. The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday conducted raids in multiple properties of the diamond jeweller.
Earlier in the day, Congress President Rahul Gandhi took an apparent dig at PM Modi and tweeted “a guide to looting India”. Gandhi listed four points and said the first involved “hugging PM Modi” and “be seen with him in Davos”. Next, he said the diamond jeweller used the clout to “steal” Rs 12, 000 crore and “slip out of the country like Mallya”.