New Delhi, February 17: The Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of institutionalising "crony capitalism" and held the BJP responsible for the Rs 11,400-crore Punjab National Bank scam involving jewellery designer Nirav Modi.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal accused the prime minister and his government of bringing the economy to its knees, and warned that the country's image would get a beating internationally under him. He also took a dig at Modi, alleging that while he was "sleeping" as the country's watchman, thieves were fleeing with the nation's wealth.
Quoting the second FIR filed by the CBI in the case, the Congress leader said that all letters of understanding (LoUs) to the accused were signed in 2017 under the NDA government, which failed to prevent the scam from happening.
Addressing a joint press conference with Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala, Shaktisinh Gohil and Pawan Khera, Sibal sought to know why Modi refused to divulge details of all those people who accompanied him during his foreign tours. "Is this the kind of 'Ease of Doing Business' PM Modi talks about?" he asked.
"I challenge BJP to come and talk about UPA's governance and their governance. Because of their ill-intentions, they have brought India's economy to its knees," he told reporters.
Sibal, a former minister and noted lawyer, accused the Prime Minister's office and the finance ministry of turning a blind eye to the multi-crore bank scam, saying they were very much aware of it. "They were aware of all this. But they turned a blind eye.
They were aware that the country was being looted," he alleged. Sibal also questioned why the HRD Minister and the Social Justice Minister were fielded by the government to defend it on the matter.
"What does a HRD Minister have to do with this? Is the minister very admiring of the quality of the human resource of Nirav Modi? What is the Social Justice Minister have to do with this? What has the Law Ministry to do with this scam?" he asked and said neither the finance ministry nor the RBI has come forward to answer questions.
He also alleged that the market capitalisation of listed companies in the gems and jewellery business is pegged at Rs 41.66 billion, while its gross current debt stands at Rs 94 billion. "This means that the debt is twice the market capitalisation and that is a scam in itself. Who can say that the government did not know this," he asked.
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 Choksi on January 31, 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 January 1 and 6, the CBI had said.