New Delhi: On February 12, more than a half a dozen officers were present at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) at Raisina Hills. Each one of the officer carried a file to attend the hurriedly-called meeting at the office. The officers included, heads of investigative, intelligence and finance ministry who were all invited for the meeting in the backdrop of massive banking scandal which involved diamantaire Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and also the government owned Punjab National Bank (PNB).
A senior PMO official said that he was very much interested to listen to the details pertaining to the PNB scam. At last he turned up to finance ministry officials to pose two questions: How much did ministry officers know beforehand about the bad debts to diamond merchants? Also, were they aware of the impending crisis?
The babus were very careful and polite in their manners and pointed out that there was no alarm bells ringing just days before the PNB complaint to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on 29 January. A senior officer later described the meeting as “super-heated” and also said that the instructions were clear: Do not spare anyone found guilty.
“Since NDA government came to power, the PMO’s instructions to ministries and enforcement agencies were very clear on taking immediate action against corruption”, the officer said. “The PMO asked officers to silently neutralise the bad elements in system. Credible complaints were forwarded for immediate investigation. The message was loud and clear from the day one: The government will not tolerate corruption and the officers were given complete freedom to identify, chase and bring the culprits to justice.”
“The government is facing intense criticism and it has been publicly attacked by the Opposition parties for lack of due diligence to check fraud and corruption. The directive was reiterated to the officers: Run a check and pursue all the genuine cases”, he added.
As cops from various agencies started their investigation into the alleged Nirav Modi scandal, whistle-blowers made their line to the PMO with complaints which were immediately forwarded to the concerned authorities to sift through and in some cases was backed by finer details with the enclosure of documentary evidence.
The agencies who were investigating, have always been on the receiving end, despite having conducted some of the most audacious probes, were extra cautious. And after a week, CBI sleuths came to the house of Vikram Kothari who owns a Kanpur-based Potomac Global Private Limited. The reason for this was that they received complaint from the Bank of Baroda in connection with alleged loan default to the tune of Rs 3,695 crore.
An allegation was put up over the Rotomac Global Private Limited as it was sanctioned non-fund based and fund based limits under consortium of 7 banks: Bank of India, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Bank of Baroda, Allahabad Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Union Bank of India and Indian Overseas bank. The bank told the CBI officers that as Rotomac account is of the high value in Kothari’s alleged fraud case, they were very much apprehensive that he could flee country to avoid legal and criminal charges.
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