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BJP says PNB fraud original sin of Congress, Rahul Gandhi blames PM Modi

BJP targets Rahul Gandhi for attending an event organised by jeweller Nirav Modi; Congress president hits back

india Updated: Feb 17, 2018 23:04 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
‪Punjab National Bank‬,Nirav Modi‬,PNB share price
A Congress supporter shouts slogans as police try to control him during a protest against billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi in New Delhi on February 16, 2018. (AFP)

The political blame game over one of India’s biggest bank frauds continued on Saturday, with the BJP targeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi for attending an event organised by jeweller Nirav Modi.

Gandhi hit back minutes later, blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for destroying the economy.

“In June 2013, (the state-owned insurer) LIC took a 4% stake in Gitanjali gems; the finance ministry questioned it. The ministry said the company has been questioned for malpractice and also suspended from doing business in NSE for almost six months. On September 13, Rahul Gandhi participated in a promotional event for this group and on September 15, a proposal for restructuring the loan and giving additional loan up to Rs 1,550 crore goes to Allahabad bank,” defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

An independent director of Allahabad Bank has claimed he was against the loan, wrote to the Reserve Bank of India and the government against it, and then, when pushed to sign off on the loan, resigned in protest.

Gandhi brushed aside the allegations of his ties with the jeweller and said “they are trying to divert the issue”. He even drew a link between demonetisation and the PNB fraud, saying it all started when the PM banned Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes and “when he took out all public money and put it into the banking system”.

The government has said it will spare no one but Opposition parties have hit out at the government for the fraud and for allowing Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi to leave India.

Sitharaman alleged that Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s wife Anita and his son are directors in the company Adwait Holdings that had given its premises in Mumbai’s Lower Parel on lease to Modi’s company, Firestar Diamond. The BJP also demanded to know why the Congress-led UPA government sought the resignation of a whistle-blower (the Allahabad bank director Dinesh Dubey) who had flagged concerns about giving loans to Modi’s Gitanjali Gems.

Rejecting the charges, Singhvi said his family has no links with Modi. “Nirav Modi’s company was a tenant of a Kamala Mills property owned by Adwait Holdings in which my wife and sons are directors. Adwait Holdings owns a commercial property at Parel, as it does elsewhere, which was rented by Firestone many years ago. Neither Adwait nor my family has any interest with Modi or Firestone. Last August, Firestone gave notice to quit the tenancy and vacated the Kamala Mills premises in December 2017,” Singhvi said.

“The original sin was committed in 2011 with help of delinquent officials. Letters of undertaking with currency of 90 days were not put into the core banking system; they were with the delinquent officer who kept files under his control,” Sitharaman said.

Meanwhile, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury initiated talks with other opposition parties to press for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the fraud.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 16:29 IST