On record: PMO knew of PNB fraud in 2016

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has admitted that the Prime Minister's Office was in the know of frauds committed in PNB in 2016, long before Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fled India this year.

The confirmation stayed under the radar but was in the public domain since July 24 in the form of a Rajya Sabha reply, which the Congress highlighted on Monday.

The answer was given by the minister of state for finance to the question: "(a) whether it is a fact that the PMO was intimated by complaints regarding the PNB frauds in public sector banks in 2016, if so the details thereof; and (b) whether the PMO had taken any steps in this regard, if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons....?"

The minister replied: "(a) and (b): Yes, sir. They were forwarded to Department. Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, vide Office Memorandum dated 1.3.2018, apprised PMO of action taken regarding the fraudulent issuance of Letters of Undertaking in PNB."

On Tuesday, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala drew attention to the reply and said: "So when Mehulbhai escaped on January 4, 2018, the finance ministry reports to the PMO on action taken on March 1, 2018. It is confirmed the PMO is involved as action was not taken for such a long time."

Surjewala added: "Worse, the ministry of external affairs gave a clean chit to Choksi in May-June 2017 to facilitate his Antiguan citizenship... Modi met Antiguan PM on April 20, 2018 but did not raise this issue. Antigua said it gave citizenship to Choksi because India never approached them."

Recalling how Choksi was invited to the Prime Minister's official residence in 2015 and Nirav Modi was present in the official group photograph with Modi and industrialists on June 23, 2018, in Davos, Surjewala said: "When the custodian of law will start patronizing criminals, what is the hope for the country?"


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