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On the day the union cabinet approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to prevent a repeat of escapes such as that of jeweller Nirav Modi, the Congress party highlighted the case of jeweller Jatin Mehta, who allegedly duped banks of Rs 67.12 billion (Rs 6,712 crore) and was 'overtly and covertly helped by the Narendra Modi government to flee the country'.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the modus operandi of Mehta was similar to that of jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. He said Mehta’s three companies – Winsome Diamonds and Jewellery Limited, Forever Precious Jewllery and Diamonds Limited and Su Raj Diamonds – duped a consortium of banks led by Canara Bank, and comprising the Punjab National Bank. The Congress said gold was imported based on letters of credit issued by Indian banks and jewellery was exported to 13 entities in Dubai. “These entities refused to pay and the money vanished,” Surjewala said.
The Congress leader said last 12 days have seen the total scam perpetrated by Nirav Modi, Choksi, Rotomac company, Dwarka Das Seth Jewellers and now Mehta increase to Rs 390 billion (Rs 39,000 crore). He alleged Mehta is related to the “business family with close proximity to the PM”.
Surjewala said Mehta’s ‘Winsome Group’ defaulted and complaints were filed by the banks with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police in February, 2014. Financial statements of the company filed with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs for the years 2013-14 and 2015-16 record the fact of the banks having filed complaints, he said. It was also reported to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), Surjewala said.
For the first time, the CBI lodged six FIRs in the case three and a half years later on April 5, 2017, and this was done by taking a fresh complaint on April 4, 2017, to cover up their inaction, the Congress said.
“Mehta and his wife fled India and gave up Indian citizenship on June 2, 2016. They settled down in the international tax haven of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, with whom India has no extradition treaty,” Surjewala said. He said Mehta’s “modus operandi” is the same as others – “flout, fleece and fly”.
Surjewala asked how was it that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs allowed Mehta and his wife to renounce their Indian citizenship. “Did they have help from the government?” he asked.
The Congress said that instead of trying to catch these offenders, the Modi government has started being vindictive by harassing Karti Chidambaram, son of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who is in India and has been at the disposal of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate for questioning for a decade old case.
“Why has no ‘Red Corner Interpol Notice’ been issued against Mehta, his wife and others until today by the Modi government and central probe agencies?” Surjewala asked. St. Kitts and Nevis is a signatory to Interpol.
“Who is protecting Jatin Mehta? Does the protection emanate on account of his close relationship with an industrial house closest to the PM through marriage of his son? What is the reason that the entire Modi government, including all probe agencies, have been found to be sleeping when it comes to preventing the fraud and taking action against Mehta and his companies?” Surjewala asked.