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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightPNB: Probe should be...

PNB: Probe should be credible

PNB: Probe should be credible

Even amidst the tight financial crunch, Rs 1 lakh crore has been allocated from the Union budget for rescuing the public sector banks this time.

Tax payers should also bear the liability of reviving the banks that have been in loss after falling prey to inefficiency and fraud. And now an individual has escaped with Rs 11, 500 crore defrauding the Punjab National Bank (PNB) that awaits Rs 5, 473 crore out of that Rs 1 lakh crore. A collusion by some bank employees is believed to have helped diamond merchant Nirav Modi to swindle PNB - the country’s second largest public sector lender - so effortlessly. When the bank filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), details of the massive fraud came to light. About ten bank officials have been suspended. CBI arrests have already begun. The Directorate of Enforcement has registered a case against several people including Nirav Modi, his wife Ami Modi and other relatives. And this is a time when the banks which show its teeth in case of a delay in the repayment of loans by the common man, write off the colossal amount of debts by the rich. Even those who land the people in trouble in the name of digital economy are purportedly unaware of issue of a Letter of Undertaking (LoU) to other banks instead of core banking and committing fraud amounting to crores of money. It is difficult to believe that only a few junior officers have colluded in the process. An unnatural phenomenon in which the people at the top fail to see what they should be seeing, is present in the different stages of this fraudulent transaction.

Hints that this is not an isolated case have also surfaced. Six other banks are also suspected to have been defrauded. There are also clues of the bank employees as well having complicity in the fraud. The public sector banks have already wasted the money of the citizens during the years 2012-16 through frauds of Rs 1.25 lakh crores and debts coming to about Rs 7 lakh crores. The loopholes left in the banking system intentionally or unintentionally should be that grave for such a massive fraud to take place. Harshad Mehta swindled the banks of Rs 5000 crore in the 1990s using fake bank receipts. Ketan Parekh committed a fraud during the tenure of Vajpayee government by securing ‘pay orders’ illegally. It was the loopholes in the system and the colluding backroom staff that played a significant role in the scams under the different governments. As in the case of Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, the details of the scam came to light only after Nirav Modi fled the country.

The government response to the Opposition who blame Modi government for the problem, is that the scamsters escaped from the country because they realized they could not survive under Modi regime. That is an explanation which can only arouse the people in an election speech. But isn't the onus of preventing the culprits’ escape and repatriating those who do, on the government of the day? Was the promise of the BJP 'Achhe din' to be enjoyed by giant corporates and a bunch of fraudsters? The inconsistencies in the explanation offered by the government raise serious concern. Why was it that when the PNB scam happened, the RBI and Ministry of Finance were not aware of it? What Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said was that the prime minister had no knowledge about it. However, a man named Hari Prasad S V reveals that he had filed a written complaint with the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) as early as in July 2016. The Registrar of Companies (ROC) who received the complaint closed the case without carrying out any investigation. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that Prime Minister Modi never spoke with Nirav Modi. But contrary to his remarks, not only did the Prime Minister and Nirav Modi attend the same summit in Davos but reports that they held a meeting, have also surfaced. Nirav Modi and his relatives left the country one by one in the first week of January. There are allegations that they fled the country sensing the oncoming investigation. The CBI registers a case the very next day of the Davos summit when all the people involved have left the country. Is all this coincidental? Is there any conspiracy behind the exit of former Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan who tried to purge the banking sector? Is the usual investigation sufficient in this case given the allegations related to those at the top?

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