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Congress demands banking accountability

Kapil Sibal
 

New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday demanded that accountability of the finance ministry, the Reserve Bank and the management of defaulting banks be fixed in the next 60 days.

Making certain other demands in the wake of the PNB scam, Congress spokesperson Kapil Sibal said if the Reserve Bank did not conduct a thorough probe to establish how public money worth thousands of crores was looted, the party would "take action".

"If the RBI doesn't do a fair probe, we will take action. We will say that the RBI does not act against the misdeeds of those who are close to the government," Sibal said.

By threatening action against the RBI, Sibal could have meant moving the Supreme Court as resorting to legal recourse is the only option against the central bank.

He didn't specify but asked the RBI to conduct a forensic audit of all "Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) communications and messages matching them with underlying transactions within 60 days and communicate to the people of India through a report. The report must be made public."

Swift is a messaging network that financial institutions use to transmit information and instructions through a standardised system of codes.

Arguing that the people of the country and global investors would lose faith in India's banking system and economy, Sibal said: "The Prime Minister should assure that the Swift communication system of all banks will be connected to their core banking system in 30 days. The Prime Minister must make a public commitment on this.

"He should also assure that every Swift message in the past five years will be checked by the banks, to report if they are supported by genuine business transactions to expose any other frauds that are yet to be detected. This should also be done in the next 30 days."

Pointing out that another fraud of Rs 390 crore involving Delhi-based jeweller Dwaraka Das had surfaced, the Congress leader said: "The frauds are happening through fake schemes involving unknown banks, mainly based in Dubai. Some banks through which the letters of understanding have been encashed are Dubai Bank Kenya, Soleil Chartered Bank, Trade Chartered Bank, TF Bank Contrakt Inc and Century Bank Corp LLC. Nobody knows what these banks are."

Sibal added: "What is worrying is that the custodians were sleeping when the loot happened. In case of Dwaraka Das, the complaint came in August 2017 and FIRs were registered in February 2018. What was happening all this while? People are becoming billionaires overnight and the chowkidar (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) has nothing to say. One day, each of these cases will be investigated."

Calling for accountability of the finance ministry, Sibal asked about the role of the government's nominee to the PNB board of directors. He said the director in question resigned and contested the Amritsar bypoll on a BJP ticket in 2017. Sibal was referring to Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina.

Arguing that Modi's silence on the banking scams was adversely affecting his credibility, Sibal said: "One per cent people of this country prior to 2014 held 59 per cent of its wealth and in 2018, 1 per cent people holds 73 per cent of its wealth. How did this happen without a robust economic growth? Is this directly related to the rising NPAs (non-performing assets)? The banks should come clean on the question of NPAs and frauds."

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