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Who let Nirav Modi flee India, asks Congress

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New Delhi: The Congress on Thursday lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rs 11,500 crore fraud in the PNB and asked him to come clean on the government’s “failure” to prevent the scam and identify those who helped the alleged kingpin, billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, to flee the country.

Posing a series of questions to the Prime Minister and his government, the Congress accused the PMO or any other authority of taking action even after a complaint was filed to the Prime Minister’s Office as early as July 26, 2016.

“The Congress demands accountability, responsibility and recovery of the money and answers on who had protected another ‘Chhota Modi’ and helped him flee the country,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.

Pegging the scam at Rs 30,000 crore, he said the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley should not remain quiet and the government should not merely issue “unsigned” press releases. “They have a lot to answer for.”

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Accusing the NDA government of trampling upon the entire banking system, Surjewala said risk management system, fraud detection ability’ and the regulatory mechanism of banks have been severally compromised under the Modi government.

“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 a naught. Yet, the Modi government would have us believe that this entire fraud was being perpetrated by two employees.”

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He said Modi was made aware of this entire fraud by a whistleblower, Hari Prasad, by way of a written complaint filed July 26, 2016 and acknowledged by the PMO.

“Multiple documents, including a list of 42 FIRs that were pending, were also in the knowledge of the Prime Minister. Despite all this, Nirav Modi traveled in the business delegation to Davos in January 2018 with Prime Minister Modi.”

Alleging that “loot and escape” had become the hallmark of the Modi government, Surjewala said: “Post-escape of ‘Lalit Modi’ i.e. ‘Chhota Modi’ and ‘Vijay Mallya’, another ‘Modi scam’ has hit India’s banking sector the hardest. First, Lalit Modi escaped. Vijya Mallya escaped. ABG’s Rishi Agarwal escaped. Now, we are told that Nirav Modi has also escaped (from) India.”

He said the scam involved over 30 banks including Punjab National Bank, Allahabad Bank, Axis Bank, State Bank of India, Union Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Indian Oversees Bank, Corporation Bank, Andhra Bank, Vijaya Bank, Canara Bank, ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank and the Export Import Bank of India.

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Posing questions to the Prime Minister, the Congress spokesperson asked how Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi duped the entire banking system through forged letters of understanding under the nose of his government.

“Who is responsible for the biggest ‘bank loot scam,” Surjewala queried, asking why the Prime Minister did not take any action to protect the banking sector from the fraud despite a written complaint received in July 2016.

“Why were all the authorities, including Finance Ministry, its financial intelligence units and all other authorities sleeping?”