Four of India’s top diamantaires are involved in the largest banking fraud in India’s history. Gitanjali Gems (Mehul Choksi), Ginni (Choksi subsidiary), Nakshatra Jewellers (Choksi subsidiary), Firestar Diamond (Nirav Modi, his wife and his brother are owners) looted nearly ₹11,300 crore from the public sector bank – Punjab National Bank (PNB) and fled the country long before the authorities could even file a complaint against them. This gang has siphoned out $1.8 billion from India’s banking system by using forged Letters of Understanding (LoUs). Owner of Firestar Diamond, Nirav Modi was earlier accused of round-tripping diamond imports to dodge import duty. Nirav Modi had actually cheated the government of ₹900 crore at that time and was only fined ₹48 crore when his office was raided by the ED. Even after being a scam accused he could muster the courage to travel with the prime minister, while the latter praised fellow Gujarati crony capitalist Mehul Choksi by inviting him to his residence.
Let us congratulate the incredible Government of India led by Narendra Modi and its sycophants! After all, they have allowed another billionaire, Nirav Modi, to abscond from the country with the money he stole. Nowhere were those who are charged with the responsibility of keeping an eye on the financial institutions of the country, like the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the ED, the RBI, etc. to stop his fleeing. Why didn’t the Modi government act on the basis of complaints sent by certain individuals or, in some cases, even by a director of the Allahabad Bank? When the RBI conducts stringent financial audits of all banks, how could a mammoth scam like the one done by Nirav Modi remain undetected for nearly a decade? There are too many questions that remain unanswered while the regular media coverage sensationalises the fraud while creating a smokescreen to allow the Modi government a breathing space.
Scam after scam, yet no one in the authorities knows what happened, why it happened and how to plug it. No learning, no analysis and also no one to blame except the invisible and the utmost dumb system. Or is it that these all scams are pre-planned, a part of the very system that promises to weed away scams and scamsters? What a sad state of inequality, fraud and nepotism in one of the largest sham democracies in the world, which is being looted by just 100 odd billionaires and their puppet politicians on a daily basis, while hundreds of millions have no food, no toilet, no healthcare access, no electricity and no water and millions search their meal from the trash bins across India. At the same time, some of the government’s favourite billionaires can spend a fortune to buy a house or millions of dollars to host an evening party and play host to those in power and those who are famous.
Like Vijay Mallya now living a luxurious life in London (recently, a British court allowed him to have an access to ₹1.8 million every week to meet his lifestyle costs), Nirav Modi will be sitting somewhere in a nice Swiss Chalet, enjoying some of the fine wines available on earth, while the losers called the tax payers, the depositors who saved their money in the public sector banks of India, enjoy the cacophony sold by the corporate media, packaged as news stories and get robbed every single day by the politician-businessman-banker-crony capitalist nexus. Every week the country, its poor and middle-class are robbed of their money and now the Modi government is trying to multiply the pain by bringing in the FRDI bill, which will allow the banks to use the people’s hard-earned money deposited with them in goodwill, converted into long-term deposits without the permission of the customers to meet the loss caused by the creatures like Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallya.
All LOUs issued by any bank in India must be reported to the RBI on a quarterly basis. Why is it that when the first LOU was issued way back in 2011, without entering the information into the CBS, it was ignored by the RBI and the top management of the PNB despite the amount being so huge? How were the LOU’s honoured by the other banks if they were not through CBS and no record of these LOU’s was present in the bank’s ledgers? Were these LOU’s issued without any reference number or authorised signature or on plain papers as handwritten notes and hence went without any printed record? When these LOU’s were presented by the fraudsters to the other banks abroad did they not demand the money from PNB after the payments were made by them? When an LOU is issued by one bank to another, the receiving bank sends a letter of confirmation to the issuing branch and the bank’s controlling office like a Regional or Zonal office. Did Union Bank, Axis Bank and Allahabad Bank share their respective letter of confirmation with PNB? If so, then why didn’t anyone in the PNB controlling office raise an alarm? Apart from PNB, the other organisation that should be answering a lot of questions related to the Nirav Modi scam is the RBI. It remained conspicuously silent on the issue of corrupt lending practices ever since Urjit Patel was appointed as its governor as per the demand of Subramanian Swamy, a Hindutva rabble-rouser and Eminence Grise of the BJP.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) refused to share the complete list of people who accompany Narendra Modi during his endless foreign tours when an RTI was filed seeking the information. A complaint petition was filed with the PMO to look into the irregularities in the PNB as early as July 2016. Since then the petition found its place in the cold storage of the PMO and no action was taken by the RBI or the Finance Ministry headed by Modi’s close aide, Arun Jaitley. Nirav Modi’s brother is married to Mukesh Ambani’s niece. Can this be the biggest reason behind Modi government’s conspicuous silence?
The CBI received a complaint from the PNB on 29 January and a case against Nirav Modi & Co. was registered on 31 January. However, much to the surprise of the law enforcement agencies, by the first week of January, Nirav Modi and his family had already fled the country. His brother, Nishal Modi, a Belgian citizen who is married to the daughter of Mukesh Ambani’s sister, left India on 1 January. Nirav Modi’s wife, Ami, a US citizen, and his business partner cum maternal uncle, Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Gems, fled on 6 January. Isn’t it quite surprising that after fleeing India, Nirav Modi lands up among the CII delegates who visited World Economic Forum at Davos with Narendra Modi? He got himself clicked in the same photograph with the prime minister and that too with absolute impunity. Who said the government is serious about nabbing him and his clan, which has Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, etc.?
Narendra Modi won the 2014 general election riding an anti-establishment wave, which was created due to accusations of the Congress-led UPA government’s involvement in gigantic scams, especially the Common Wealth Games scam, 2G scam, Coalgate scam, etc. Narendra Modi promised that his “strong” government will throw all scamsters behind the bars? However, at the last leg of its journey, can the Modi government tell the country about its real achievements in fighting graft and corruption? Apart from the demonetisation stint, which troubled the economy badly, what has Narendra Modi done to prove his allegiance to the cause of annihilating the menace of corruption? What happened to Robert Vadra, the DLF investigation? Where is Lalit Modi? Where is Vijay Mallya? Forget the answers and forget about Modi’s commitment to jail the scamsters, can he at least answer why India is spending a huge amount, ₹58,000 crore to purchase 36 ready-made “Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts” Rafale Jets with weapons from the French company Dassault when the UPA negotiated a deal for 126 jets, 18 ready-to-fly and the rest to be manufactured at government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) at its Indian facility after knowledge and technology transfer from Dassault for ₹53,000 crore in 2012? How come, Anil Ambani, the owner of Reliance Defence Ltd., went to the crucial Dassault meeting with the prime minister and how his firm was allowed to form a strategic alliance with Dassault and why HAL was sidelined from the new deal signed in 2015?
While those answers will never come, we still find it hard to decipher the Nirav Modi scam, which showed how the system can be tampered with by the powerful criminals. Whenever a SWIFT message is sent, it’s verified, checked and authorised at various checkpoints by personnel in various capacity and hierarchy. Why no one from the forex department of the PNB raised an alarm? This seems more like a top-level collaboration than a branch level fraud. Whenever such huge amounts are sent through SWIFT, bypassing CBS, it generates daily reports. Were the concurrent auditors of PNB sleeping for seven years that they could not go through all these daily reports? While the PNB management would like us to believe that the whole fraud has been committed by a DGM rank officer or few officials of the bank, we will see numerous evidence around us that will yell at the top of the voice – yes, Nirav Modi stole money by bribing everyone in power.
When the taxpayers’ money had been swindled so blatantly in the past by the evil nexus between the crony capitalists-politicians and bank management, then why these same banks have been recapitalised with ₹80,000 crore once again without any recovery of earlier non-performing assets of the banks (NPA)? The banks are allowed to give blind loans to the corporate tycoons and these unreturnable loans are piling up as bad debts and then soaring the NPA of each bank. While despite so much of warning, the Aadhar is blatantly imposed on gullible citizens of the country as the principal identity proof and thereby the workers and farmers who have no access to Adhaar will not be able to access money in their bank accounts. However, despite the tall talks of Adhaar Card-based verification, the corporate houses and crony capitalists are able to plunder the public sector banks. The PNB and the Modi government are so broke that they have now decided to sell almost all real estate owned by the PNB to recover the losses. This fraud is moving and spreading rapidly. The fatcat billionaires of India have “loans” in thousands of crores, each of them; they have siphoned off the money into their own pockets and nicely run away in connivance with the BJP government, while the average loan granted by the banks to the farmers is just ₹200,000 each ($3,125) and 3,000 – 4,000 farmers commit suicide every year in India to avoid the tightening of the vicious debt noose around their neck.
Political parties of all hues and shades, with their loudmouth representatives, are trying to sink the issue of Nirav Modi’s PNB scam and Narendra Modi’s Rafale scam by resorting to disgusting, below-the-belt, blame game and rhetoric mongering so that no one can come close to the truth. It’s high time for us, as a nation and its honest taxpayers (direct and indirect), to question the crony capitalism which has engulfed us in its lust of greed and money power, to question the very politicians who support or take donations from these corporate leeches. If we can’t do that now, then surely we are doomed.