Congress on Nirav Modi scam: PM did nothing to stop India's 'biggest bank fraud'

Feb 15, 2018, 19:15 IST | PTI

Congress targeted the government over the Rs 11,400 crore scam allegedly involving jewellery designer Nirav Modi and accused it of doing nothing to stop "independent India's biggest bank fraud" despite being informed of it

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The Congress on Thursday targeted the government over the Rs 11,400 crore scam allegedly involving jewellery designer Nirav Modi and accused it of doing nothing to stop "independent India's biggest bank fraud" despite being informed of it. "Loot and escape" had become the hallmark of the government, Congress leaders said, equating the celebrity designer with liquor baron Vijay Mallya, former IPL chief Lalit Modi and other businessmen who had left the country after allegedly committing frauds worth crores.

Party president Rahul Gandhi led the charge and said the NDA government looked the other way when Nirav Modi used his clout with the prime minister to slip out of the country and steal Rs 12,000 crore. "Guide to looting India by Nirav Modi--1. Hug PM Modi 2. Be seen with him in DAVOS. Use that clout to: A. Steal 12,000 crore B. Slip out of the country like Mallya, while the government looks the other way," Gandhi said on Twitter. The Congress also released a picture of Nirav Modi with the business delegation accompanying the prime minister to Davos at the World Economic Forum meet last month.

According to officials, Nirav Modi left the country on January 1, much before the CBI received a complaint from the Punjab National Bank. Dubbing Nirav Modi "Chota Modi two" and Lalit Modi "Chhota Modi one", Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surejewala asked whether the billionaire jewellery designer had a tip off that led him to leave the country. He also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was protecting the jeweller.

Surjewala, along with party leaders Shaktisinh Gohil and Pawan Khera, released a copy of a complaint by a Bangalore resident Hari Prasad, seeking early action against Nirav Modi and his business partner Mehul Choksi, to buttress the party's claims. Addressing a press conference, Surjewala said the letter was acknowledged by the Prime Minister's Office on July 26, 2016. The prime minister was made aware of this entire fraud through the complaint, he said.

State-owned Punjab National Bank yesterday said that it had detected a about Rs 11,400 crore scam -- where Nirav Modi allegedly acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking from a branch in Mumbai to secure overseas credit from other Indian lenders. "The entire system was bypassed. All regulatory mechanisms broke down. Everything escaped the eyes of auditors and investigators. 'Risk management' and 'fraud detection ability' came to naught. Yet, the Modi government would have us believe that this entire fraud was being perpetrated by two employees," Surjewala said.

"Has it become the norm for letting people run away with public money? Who is responsible," Surjewala said. He said this was biggest bank fraud in independent India and asked why it was permitted to happen. "Why did prime minister not take action on it despite being told about it," he said. The prime minister and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have so far been silent but must answer the questions, the Congress leader said. The Congress, he said, demands accountability, "fixation of responsibility" and recovery of the money.

"If prime minister knew of the matter as early as July 26, 2016, should he not be held accountable? Should the prime minister have permitted such a person to accompany him as part of a business delegation along with him to Davos. The responsibility lies more with the prime minister," he said.

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