Rahul pins 'lookout notice' blame on Modi

CBI would not act without PM's nod: Cong

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 15.09.18
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Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan greets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Indore on Friday. (PTI)

New Delhi: The Congress on Friday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence on Vijay Mallya's encounter with finance minister Arun Jaitley before the tycoon fled the country, claiming that law-enforcement agencies couldn't have allowed a "wilful defaulter" to escape unless there were instructions from the top.

While Congress president Rahul Gandhi referred to the inexplicable dilution of the lookout notice issued by the CBI, his party said the attitude of the banks and law-enforcement agencies towards a "wilful defaulter" reflected political patronage.

Instead of the finance minister, the focus on Friday shifted to the Prime Minister for allegedly choosing to ignore the raging controversy.

Rahul tweeted: "Mallya's Great Escape was aided by the CBI quietly changing the 'Detain' notice for him, to 'Inform'. The CBI reports directly to the PM. It is inconceivable that the CBI, in such a high profile, controversial case, would change a lookout notice without the approval of the PM."

Rahul Gandhi

Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala claimed that the "dubious role" played by the CBI was borne out by the facts of the case.

"On August 19, 2014, State Bank of India sent him (Mallya) a notice for declaring him a wilful defaulter. On September 1, 2014, United Bank of India declared him a wilful defaulter. The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) filed a case against Mallya in May 2015. The CBI filed an FIR against Mallya on July 29, 2015," Surjewala said.

The Congress leader added: "The CBI raided Kingfisher Airlines and Mallya and seized documents and computers. On the basis of evidence gathered, the CBI issued the lookout notice to 'detain' on October 16, 2015. All of a sudden, on November 23, 2015, the notice was converted to lookout to 'inform'. The CBI said yesterday that there was no evidence against him. No evidence against a wilful defaulter who also has cases (lodged against him) by the CBI and the SFIO? Can there be greater dishonesty?"

The Congress communications chief accused the CBI of "diluting" the lookout notice "under political pressure".

"The CBI was being used like a puppet by those who control it. We want to know who was Mallya's chief protector and benefactor? If the Prime Minister doesn't act now, it will be proved that chowkidar bhagidar nahin, gunahgaar hai (the custodian is not only a partner, but also a culprit)," Surjewala said, referring to Modi's pre-poll promise of guarding the resources of the country.

Surjewala reminded the government of the Congress's dare to it to release Parliament CCTV footage that the party claims would prove that the interaction between Mallya and Jaitley a day before the industrialist fled was more than a "one-sentence exchange" forced on the finance minister.

"We demanded the release of video recordings. Why is the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariat silent? Why is the government not contesting (Congress MP) P.L. Punia's claim? Punia has said he will quit politics if proven wrong. Prove him wrong. Jaitley said Mallya paced up to approach him and spoke one sentence. Let the CCTV footage substantiate his claim."

The Congress had claimed at a news conference on Thursday that Punia had seen Jaitley and Mallya talk for 15-20 minutes in one corner of the Central Hall of Parliament.

Alleging that the failure to release the video footage was an admission of guilt, Surjewala said: "Mallya had already defaulted on a Rs 7,000-crore loan by 2015. Why none of the 17 banks filed a case? Who nudged the banks to go slow? Why did the SBI ignore the advice given by senior advocate Dushyant Dave on February 28, 2018, to get Mallya's passport impounded within 24 hours? There was clearly an elaborate conspiracy to protect him and ensure he fled the country."