The Indian banking sector, already in deep trouble, has been rocked by a massive Rs. 12000-crore (approximately $2 billion) scam, Congress party said Friday.
It is stated to be the biggest fraud in the country, perpetrated on Punjab National Bank (PNB) by jewellery merchant Nirav Modi.
Congress suggests that a scam of this scale could not have taken place without connivance at the highest levels of government.
“It is astonishing that such a huge amount was siphoned off despite multiple levels of bank audits, regulatory mechanisms, and RBI supervision,” Congress said. “This cannot be written off just as an example of unforgivable criminal incompetence of the Narendra Modi government. It shows that the accused enjoyed patronage and support at the highest levels.”
According to Congress, the PMO (Prime Minister Office) was made aware of the scam by the whistle-blower Hari Prasad in July 2016, but no concrete action was taken and the case was merely referred to the Registrar of Companies (ROC).
The ROC, in turn, simply closed the case without even asking the whistle-blower for evidence. Most worrying is the fact that the whistle-blower had written to every financial agency under the government – ED, CBI, SEBI, and Ministry of Corporate Affairs – but was inexplicably ignored.
Much after the PMO was made aware of the scam, Nirav Modi’s company continued to siphon off money with impunity. The CBI FIR clearly shows that fraudulent bank loans were taken by the accused as late as February of 2017, Congress claims.
— Congress (@INCIndia) February 16, 2018
The entire Modi family left the country in the first week of January, in a seemingly coordinated manner, strongly suggesting that they may have been tipped off by someone in the government. The CBI only registered the FIR on 31st January, after all the accused had left the country.
Shockingly, according to Congress, Nirav Modi was seen hobnobbing with the Prime Minister at Davos, where the former was a part of the 100-strong business delegation accompanying the Prime Minister.
An official photograph released by the MEA shows Nirav Modi in the second row behind the Prime Minister. These business delegations are conventionally handpicked and vetted by the PMO.
It is highly unlikely that the celebrity jeweller’s presence at Davos is merely a coincidence, contrary to what the government is now claiming, Congress said.
This scam puts further stress on the banking sector, which is already reeling under ballooning NPAs. As of data from December 2017, NPAs of public sector banks rose by Rs. 5.05 lakh crore in the 42 months under the Modi government. This brazen loot of public money is yet another assault on India’s banking sector, Congress says.
The government has much to answer on its role and explain its failures at multiple levels. Congress questions: Why did the PMO not take any action despite being made aware of the scam in 2016? Why was the Modi family allowed to leave the country? Were they tipped off just in time, and by whom? How did a scam of this massive scale escape the notice of all regulatory agencies? Does this not point to active complicity at the very highest levels?
The BJP Govt needs to stop beating around the bush and come clean. Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi scammed the nation right under their noses and yet PM Modi has no answers. #ModiGhotala pic.twitter.com/MF5xy5ENq4
— Congress (@INCIndia) February 16, 2018
The nation is awaiting answers from the man who had promised to be the ‘chowkidar’ (watchman) of the country’s wealth. It looks like the PM has been caught napping, or worse still, he acted as a ‘bhagidar’ (accomplice) in this loot, Congress said.
Although the spokespersons of Modi’s party BJP are trying to defend Modi government, they have failed to give any convincing answer to the questions that Congress has raised.
Photo courtesy: Congress
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