New Delhi, Feb 17, 2018: It no longer comes as a surprise that a scam in India is detected only after culprits escape the country. Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi are new additions in the list of smart fraudsters living a luxurious life abroad. The latest corporate offender Nirav was seen in the World Economic Forum at Davos along with India’s top business and political leaders promoting ‘Brand India’, days after Punjab National Bank had detected the fraud internally on January 15. Choksi also fled to a foreign land, apparently for some medical treatment, well before the bank decided to make the multi-crore fraud public. Whether it is notorious Vijay Mallya or disgraced Lalit Modi - the pattern is the same. Scams took place under one political regime and scamsters fled the country under the other. Therefore, both the incumbent and the predecessor lack any political will to thoroughly investigate these scams. Undoubtedly, the businessman-politician nexus is strong and omnipresent.
Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Sanjay Bhandari and Deepak Talwar
The growing culture of crony capitalism has encouraged unscrupulous businessmen to siphon off huge sums from financial institutions, particularly public sector banks, with impunity. The daylight robbery is covered up by classifying such bad loans as “non-performing assets” or NPAs. The burden of such losses are eventually borne by nameless taxpayers. This is how Indian banks have accumulated about Rs 10 lakh crore NPAs. Although, the incumbent blames the erstwhile government for this fraud, it lacks political will to nab the culprits. Frauds of this scale cannot happen without the nexus of the rich and the mighty. But, none is held accountable to date. Such frauds cannot be brushed under the carpet. They call for a CBI probe.
The PNB naively wants the citizens to believe that the $1.77 billion scam was committed by some small-time managers. How could such large transactions take place bypassing the surveillance system? Top officials, including the chairman, are paid huge salaries and perks to implement a robust system. Hence, they should be held accountable. Rs 11,400 crore is not peanuts. The money is enough to salvage the entire farming community of cash-strapped Punjab. Bank frauds will never stop unless chairmen and top managers are held accountable and punished for lapses.
What is equally appalling is how, when investigations into his misdeeds were at an advanced stage, Nirav and his entire family and some associates were allowed to quietly get away to foreign locations undetected or unhampered to escape the law-enforcers. While the government has much to answer for, that such a thing had happened earlier in the case of erstwhile cricket czar Lalit Modi and industrialist Vijay Mallya shows the fragility of our system of governance.
The league of extraordinary offenders
Vijay Mallya: The ‘king of good times’ fled the country and is currently hiding in London. In India, Mallya faces several cases. The biggest case against him is how his Kingfisher Airlines defaulted on loans to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore from the banks in India. In 2016, a consortium of banks headed by teh SBI approached the Supreme Court to stop Mallya from going abroad. But the complaint came too late, baucuse by then Mallya had fled the country. As of now, India is trying to extradite him from the UK.
Lalit Modi: The man who gave Indians their biggest obsessions combined in one format - the Indian Premier league – left the country in 2010. Lalit Modi is reported to be staying in London. Teh Enforcement Directorate has got a ‘blue corner’ Interpol notice against Modi for breaching the FEMA rules.
Deepak Talwar: Little is known about this economic offender. It is said that he is currently living in the UAE. However, he can’t leave UAE. The Income Tax department has filed five prosecution complaints against the corporate consultant for allegedly receiving kickbacks worth hurdreds of crores in individual and corporate accounts controlled by him and his family.
Sanjay Bhandari: Another economic offender, Bhandari is known to be dealing in arms trade. He fled the country after agencies started probing Delhi-based hawala cases in 2016. Investigators found an entry of Rs 16 crore on behalf of his company and raided the premises. They found emails linking him with Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, which were denied by Vadra’s lawyers. Bhandari is involved in purchase of trainer aircraft worth Rs 4,000 crore for the Indian Air Force.
Jatin Mehta: In 2013, a consortium of Indian Banks was hit when Winsome group led by Jatin Mehta failed to repay. The Punjab National Bank was hurt the most in the case. The bank lost Rs 1,800 in the credit extended to the Winsome House. Jatin Mehta and his wife are now citizens of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis.
Inputs from Freepress Journal