For the last few days the media narrative on the Punjab National Bank (PNB) Scam running into thousands of crores has been one sided and biased. While nobody denies that the Modi Government has to answer several questions about Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi managing to flee India—should legitimate questions not be asked about what transpired right from 2011—the year in which the scam started? Congress President (selected President) Rahul Gandhi has been taking several jibes through twitter but he has been reluctant to answer a series of questions I have raised:
- If a photo of Nirav Modi with PM Modi in Davos makes him guilty (although it is now clear that Nirav Modi was not part of any official delegation) then do the pictures of Mehul Choksi (uncle of Nirav Modi and promoter of Gitanjali Gems) with senior congress leaders not imply their guilt? Is it not true that a senior lawyer MP of Congress party had some transactions with Nirav Modi? The IT Authorities are looking into it and some of it has come into public domain. If true, is this not a bigger connection with Nirav Modi than some random picture at Davos?
- Can Rahul Gandhi deny that he did not meet Nirav Modi in September 2013 at a cocktail party organised for a select few friends at Imperial Hotel in Delhi? Mr Gandhi spent 45 minutes there. He was seen interacting with Nirav by me and other eye witnesses. If I was lying, Mr Gandhi can sue me. He can make his SPG records public or take a lie detector test (I am ready to take it) and disprove me. This private cocktail party meet holds major significance because Nirav Modi was not a big and well known jeweller. His fortunes started to change when he got these big LoUs from PNB in 2011 when the scam started in all earnest. Rahul Gandhi is then attending his cocktail party and bridal jewellery events in September 2013! Does Rahul have any special Interest in bridal jewellery? Or was it something else?
- September 2013 is an important month because while
Rahul Gandhi was hobnobbing over cocktails with Nirav Modi a whistle blower Dinesh Dubey (an independent Director at Allahabad Bank appointed by the UPA Government itself) was red flagging loans to Nirav’s uncle Mehul Choksi. He wrote to the Finance Secretary and the RBI. He was forced to resign before the completion of his tenure and loans for Mehul Choksi to the tune of over 1500 crores were cleared despite many doubts. Could it have happened without political patronage from the very top?
- 2013 has other significance too. Mehul Choksi’s firm Gitanjali Gems was suspended by Sabi and NSE for market manipulations for 6 months. Clearly something was wrong and amiss! And in just three months in 2013, without reason or rationale the company is reinstated! Not only is it reinstated but LIC-India’s leading government insurance company picks up 4.8 per cent stake in such a company whose share prices are falling! Why was no action taken by Finance Ministry? In 2013 the kingpin of the scam—an official of the PNB—Gokulnath Shetty (now arrested by CBI) was due to be transferred but somebody higher up stopped that transfer and the scam was allowed to continue. Yes the CBI FIR mentions LoUs dating to 2017 but the reality is that these LoUs were all initiated in 2011 and were being hidden from the system by the same Gokulnath Shetty and company!
- What about the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and its Governor Raghuram Rajan—darling of the Lutyen’s media. What was RBI doing since 2011? Did RBI not undertake its job of supervision of banks seriously? Wasn’t it the job of RBI to review these LoUs every few months? Why did they not blow the lid of the scam? Seems that the cocktail party had ensured everyone was hung over and nobody was bothered about doing this job transparently? Today the Central Government has asked RBI why it was snoozing for so long!
- Now certain documents even reveal that Karnataka Government knew about the scams and misgivings of Mehul Choksi in 2015-2016 itself! In one instance a NBW (non bailable warrant) was issued against Mehul Choksi by a court in Mysuru in 2016 but it was never executed by the Karnataka police under the control of Rahul Gandhi”s key general Sidharamaiah! If PM Narendra Modi is guilty because Nirav Modi and Choksi ran away before even an FIR was registered against them then by the same logic are Rahul Gandhi and Sidharamaiah not responsible for letting Choksi get away despite a NBW?
- In a Karnataka court itself while arguing for impounding the passport of Mehul Choksi, the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) acknowledges that Choksi is a “habitual and wilful defaulter” and has scammed India of “hundreds and thousands of crores” and had a flight risk! How did Karnataka Government know all this in 2015/2016? Did the UPA 2 Government know something through investigations and then mysteriously bury it to ensure Nirav and Mehul survive? If they knew all this why did the Karnataka Government not share it with the Central Government? The SPP in his statement says that “investigations must be done by CBI, ED and EOW” but did they ever inform these agencies? Why not? Why such “bhaichara” with Mehul Bhai? It is perplexing! Could we not have ensured in 2015 itself that the scam stops and these fraudsters are put in jail?
- Past experience has shown a trend- whether it’s Vijay Mallya or Choksi, Nirav Modi. They do not run away when Rahul Gandhi is in power. Instead like Mallya did—they expect a soft hand approach and write letters demanding more loans and thank the Finance Ministry and Prime Minister for their intervention to get more loans! But with a change of administration they are running away because they don’t expect a helping “hand”. Perhaps they are right—today one more from their ilk Vikram Kothari of Rotomac Pens has been arrested by agencies.
- REcently in Lok Sabha the PM had red flagged how the Bank Scam was perhaps the biggest scam of India and how the NPAs during the UPA era were probably under reported by a huge margin! Today those loans given fraudulently are being recovered and these fraudsters feel this is no longer the old times when they could write letters and get a helping “hand”. So, they are running away! But section of Lutyen’s media wants to blame the recovery agents rather than those who gave loans to these defaulters!!
- There is no doubt that many systemic discrepancies exist and need to be fixed by the current Government. People are right in feeling anxious when big fraudters run away with thousands of crores. But while we ask that question, we cannot forget to hold to account those who fed and nourished these scamsters. We cannot ignore questions that must be asked of those who attended their private cocktail parties.
(The writer is a Political analyst)