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PNB fraud case: Congress says it will oppose PSBs privatisation

Party releases documents that show Choksi was declared absconder in August 2017

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

punjab national bank, pnb
CBI official comes out of the Brady House branch of the Punjab National Bank (PNB) which had been sealed earlier in Mumbai | Photo: Kamlesh Pednekar

The Congress on Monday termed “preposterous” and “irresponsible” the suggestion that (PSBs) should be privatised in light of the problem of (NPAs) and the Rs 114-billion bank fraud.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the party will oppose any move to privatise nationalised with all the force at its command.

“You are unable to deal with the NPAs and banking fraud and you say the entire banking system be privatised. This is utterly irresponsible,” Tewari said. He said there is enough data available in the public domain to prove that NPAs as a ratio of total deposits of (PSBs) is much less compared to private

“We had hoped the Chief Economic Adviser and others, including Vinod Rai of Board Bureau, would have suggested ways to strengthen banking regulations. Instead, they want PSBs to be privatised. This needs to be nipped in the bud and will be opposed with all the force at our command,” Tewari said.

He said the Modi government should come up with a white paper on bank NPAs, and should post details of their NPAs and also the names of companies and their promoters who have taken these loans on bank websites. This will help investors make a more informed choice about their investments.

“Bank NPAs and bank frauds are different. Let the government tell the country the action that has been taken in each of the NPAs and bank fraud cases of last five years. In a right to information query, the Reserve Bank of India had recently revealed that bank frauds worth Rs 600 billion have taken place in the last five years,” Tewari said.

The Congress party on Monday also released documents that show that the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Chandigarh had declared chairman and managing director of Gitanjali Gems, Mehul Choksi, as a proclaimed offender and absconder in August 2017. Choksi is the business partner of jeweller Nirav Modi and involved in the Rs 114-billion Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.

“This new revelation raises profound questions as to who facilitated the escape of these two gentlemen from the country, particularly Choksi,” Tewari said. The Congress leader asked how a person declared a proclaimed offender and absconder was allowed to leave the country. “Would the Prime Minister and Minister tell the country about who facilitated Choksi’s escape,” Tewari asked.

The Congress leader said Nirav Modi, Choksi and their families left India in the first week of January. “How is it that Nirav Modi turned up in Davos and was even photographed with the PM and other business leaders from India in Davos on January 24, and an FIR is registered against him on January 29?” Tewari asked.

The Congress party also demanded the PM should answer questions on allegations that the turnover of a company owned by Jay Shah, son of BJP chief Amit Shah, has grown by 16,000 times during the tenure of the Modi government.

Tewari said the PM should also clarify his Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s claim made on Sunday that the base price of the Rafale fighter jet escalated by 300 per cent between 2011 and 2014. Tewari said the PM should let the country know the benchmark price of Rafale fighter jet in 2011 to 2014, and the final price on which his government has bought Rafale.

The Congress party also demanded the PM to speak on the allegedly mysterious death of CBI judge BH Loya and the ONGC’s investment in the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation. Tewari said it was the time that the PM should address at least one “full-fledged” press conference, which all his predecessors have done during their tenures.

The Congress spokesperson also termed the action by probe agencies in the bank fraud case “an attempt to create a smokescreen, an illusion of action when the horses have already bolted.” Tewari said this action was only for the benefits of news television cameras.

First Published: Mon, February 19 2018. 19:41 IST