Under flak for a Rs 11,400 crore fraud case involving Punjab National Bank, the BJP today said no one irrespective of stature will be spared by the probe agencies and rejected Congress’ attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “baseless”. The party fielded Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to counter allegations against the Modi government and he dubbed the Congress’ reference of “chhota Modi” for the scam’s main accused, Nirav Modi, as “derogatory, demeaning, shameful, utterly irresponsible and scandalous”. Official sources also pointed out that Nirav Modi was not part of prime minister’s official delegation to Davos as being claimed by the Congress. Asked at the press conference about the action taken by the Prime Minister’s Office after Bengaluru resident Hari Prasad warned it in a letter in July 2016 against Nirav Modi and other accused, Prasad said it was acknowledged and what action different departments took will be conveyed later. Seeking to turn the heat on the Congress, Prasad pointed out that the alleged fraud had started in 2011 when it was in power and questioned whose “blessings” were with Mehul Choksi, Nirav’s business partner, as the income of Choksi’s firm Gitanjali Gems doubled between 2011-13. The fraud has been unearthed under our government and action is being taken, he said. Prasad also said that Nirav was not part of the prime minister’s delegation to Davos and had come to the Swiss town on his own. He joined a CII delegation for a group photograph with him, he said. “I wish to deny this with full authority. No personal meeting (of Nirav) with the prime minister took place,” he said. “Those living in glass houses, which are already broken, should not throw stones at us as the Modi government is working with full honesty. I want to make it clear on the government’s behalf as well that nobody irrespective of his stature in the banking system will be spared,” he said, admitting that establish banking practises were bypassed.
Tax payers money would not be allowed to go waste, he said. He cited “speedy” action taken by the CBI and the Enforcement Direction after the scam came to light and said with 9 properties of the accused worth over Rs 1300 crore have been seized. To a question about the accused having already fled India, he hinted that the government will move to get them deported, saying India’s clout had increased and its voice was being heard by foreign countries. “You wait for the action… Do you see any let up in our action against Vijay Mallya,” he said, referring to the liquor baron being prosecuted by India on charges of cheating and fraud. He is currently in the UK after fleeing India. Attacking Rahul Gandhi, Prasad referred to a tweet by a disgruntled Congress leader and said the Congress president had gone to attend an event organised by Choksi in 2013. He claimed that the Congress’ attack on the government was born out of its “pain” over its electoral losses and it will lose to the BJP in Tripura as well. He asked the Congress not to do photo politics- a reference to Nirav’s presence in a group picture with the prime minister- and said his party also has “cozy” photos of its leaders with Choksi but it will not stoop to this low. Defending the government, he quoted Modi to say that no loan given by banks under his government had turned Non Performing Assets, which were a “legacy” of the UPA.