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Feb 15, 2018 08:57 PM IST | Source: PTI

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

Party president Rahul Gandhi led the charge, alleging that the NDA government looked the other way when Nirav Modi used his "clout" with the prime minister to slip out of the country.

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 in July, 2016.

"Loot and escape" had become the hallmark of the government, the party said, equating the celebrity designer with liquor baron Vijay Mallya, former IPL chief Lalit Modi and other businessmen such as Rishi Agarwal who had fled the country after allegedly committing frauds worth crores of rupees. The Congress also said the scam could well involve transactions worth over Rs 30,000 crore and over two dozen public sector banks.

Party president Rahul Gandhi led the charge, alleging that the NDA government looked the other way when Nirav Modi used his "clout" with the prime minister to slip out of the country.

"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, several days before the CBI received a complaint about the scam from the Punjab National Bank (PNB) on January 29 this year.

Dubbing Nirav Modi "Chhota Modi two" and Lalit Modi "Chhota Modi one", Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala asked if the billionaire jewellery designer had a tip-off that prompted him to leave the country.

He also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was protecting the jeweller.

To buttress the Congress claims, Surjewala, along with party leaders Shaktisinh Gohil and Pawan Khera, released a copy of a complaint by Bangalore resident Hari Prasad, seeking action against Nirav Modi and his business partner Mehul Choksi.

Addressing a press conference, he said the letter was acknowledged by the Prime Minister's Office on July 26, 2016.

The prime minister was made aware of the fraud through the complaint, he said, alleging that besides multiple documents, a list of 42 FIRs pending against them was also in the knowledge of the prime minister.

State-owned PNB yesterday said it had detected a Rs 11,400-crore scam -- where Nirav Modi allegedly acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking from one of its branches 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.

"Billionaire Nirav Modi steals Rs 12,000 crore right under the nose of the Modi Government and flees the country. Ironically, Nirav Modi was later spotted with PM Modi in Davos," Surjewala said, adding, "Has it become the norm for letting people run away with public money? Who is responsible?" Lashing out at the prime minister, he said, "This is the biggest bank loot scam of independent India and who permitted this scam to happen? Why did the prime minister not take any action despite knowing about it on July 26, 2016?" "Various financial experts peg the scam at Rs 30,000 crore," he said, adding that many more banks may be involved. Surjewala also wondered who was protecting Nirav Modi. "Why did this person still travel to Davos with the Prime Minister? Who was protecting this particular individual, who helped him escape the clutches of law and leave the country," he asked.

The prime minister and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had so far been silent on the issue but must answer the questions, he added. The Congress, he said, demanded accountability, fixing of responsibility and recovery of the money.

"If prime minister knew of the matter as early as on 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 to Davos? The responsibility lies more with the prime minister," he said.

Asked about BJP's claim that the fraud was detected in 2011 but no action was taken by the then UPA government, he said this was "classical BJP double-speak" to divert attention from the issue.

"Why don't they answer straight questions? You are in power now for four years. A fraud is happening under your nose," he said, asking what government agencies such as the regulation risk management system, fraud detection, financial intelligence unit and registrar of companies as well as ministries such as the PMO and corporate affairs were doing for four years.

"How did they permit the accused to escape? So instead of diverting attention and meting out lies, they should answer the truth," he said.

Why did the prime minister not speak up, Surjewala asked.
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