Scam not possible without top-level protection, says Cong

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New Delhi: The Congress today launched an all-out attack on the NDA government over the alleged multi-crore PNB fraud involving Nirav Modi, saying a scam of such magnitude could not have taken place without “top-level protection”, and questioned the prime minister’s silence on the issue.

The Congress said it would discuss the issue with other parties in Parliament and explore the option of making a united demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the issue.

Leading the charge was Congress president Rahul Gandhi who questioned the prime minister’s silence and asked him to explain why it had happened and what steps were being taken to ensure the banking system was safe in India.

The Congress chief rejected the BJP charge that he had personal ties with Nirav Modi and had attended his promotional event, saying “they are trying to divert the issue. There is nothing like that.”

The Congress Steering Committee, which functions in place of the Working Committee, also adopted a resolution asking the prime minister to tell the nation the reasons for “failure of the fraud detection ability” of the entire banking sector and the finance ministry.

The Steering Committee, which fixed that the party’s plenary session would be held in Delhi on 16, 17 and 18 March to decide the future strategy of the Congress, said the “biggest bank scam” has exposed the complete failure of “regulatory mechanism” and “fraud detection ability” of the banking sector and the failure of oversight by the Reserve Bank of India and the finance ministry.

The Steering Committee also called upon the prime minister to apprise the nation of complete facts about the “biggest bank scam”, instead of remaining silent.

“It must be brought out how the entire banking system was duped through ‘Letters of Understanding’ under the watch of Modi Government and why all authorities like Finance Ministry and other agencies were found wanting in preventing the loss?

“The Prime Minister must also tell the nation how a fraud of this magnitude escaped the eyes of all the auditors and investigators conducting ‘statutory audit’, ‘internal audit’, ‘concurrent audit’ and even the RBI’s own audit?” said the Committee in its resolution.

Surjewala said Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge will speak to all the parties to arrive at a strategy either of a demand of the JPC or something else to be decided jointly by opposition parties.

“We will place all the facts and we will in order to demand accountability of the government, will be raising the issue vociferously in Parliament till the Modi government answers to the people of the country,” he said.

Gandhi said he agreed with former finance minister P Chidambaram who said during the meeting that a scam of this level which the prime minister “is ignoring”, “cannot have been committed without high-level protection”.

“It must have been known to the people in government beforehand. Otherwise, it is not possible because the amount is so huge,” he said.

“Through this plenary session Congress Party will attempt to put up a vision and a viewpoint as also a way forward for the country problems that the country faces today,” he said.

Nirav Modi, 46, a regular feature on the lists of rich and famous Indians since 2013, was booked by the CBI, along with wife, brother and Gitanjali Group promoter Mehul Choksi on 31 January, for allegedly cheating the state-run PNB to the tune of Rs 280 crore.

The bank subsequently sent two more complaints to the CBI on Tuesday, saying the scam was worth more than Rs 11,400 crore.

The jewellery designer is understood to be a citizen of the country but his brother Nishal and wife Ami are not Indian nationals. They all left India between 1 and 6 January, the CBI had said.

PTI