New Delhi: The ruling BJP on Saturday blamed the Congress for the "original sin" that led to the alleged Rs 11,500 crore banking fraud by jeweller Nirav Modi and his partner Mehul Choksi. The opposition party returned the attack calling it "cheap sense of politics that has reached ludicrous and ridiculous proportions".
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, fielded by the BJP to respond to allegations that the Modi government failed in preventing the alleged scam and stopping the accused kingpins from fleeing the country, said Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi's family had stocks in one of the companies of the billionaire fugitivies.
"The Congress indulges in such scandalous affairs, misuses important positions in government, then quietly covers up everything they do. Instead of explaining how it happened during their period, they are casting allegations. Original sin in this episode of Nirav Modi was committed in 2011," Sitharaman told reporters.
She said Congress President Rahul Gandhi and party spokesperson Singhvi had links with the businessmen who are on the run even as their passports have been impounded.
The Punjab National Bank disclosed the massive fraud on Wednesday detailing that the luxurious diamond merchants leveraged the loopholes in the banking system and sought letters of undertaking (LoU) and raised credit from foreign banks to pay its merchants. The CBI, the main probing agency, has said in its FIR that a majority of the LoUs in the scam were either issued or were renewed in the bank in 2017-18.
The Defence Minister was armed with a pile of documents which she alleged pointed at how Gandhi promoted the businessmen and benefited from the scam.
"Gitanjali Gems was suspended for six months from doing business on NSE in 2013. On 13 September 2013, Rahul Gandhi attends a promotion event of this jewellery group.
"On 15 September 2013, a proposal of restructuring and giving additional loans to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore to the same jewellery group is mooted in Allahabad Bank board meeting. Join the dots," she said.
The BJP leader alleged that Singhvi's wife Anita had shares in Nirav Modi's firm. "Firestone Diamond International is one of the companies that Nirav Modi runs. They have taken on lease property which belongs to Adwait Holding in Trade Point Building in Lower Parel. From 2002, Anita Singhvi is one of the shareholders. You know whose wife she is.
"You promote Geetanjali Gems, give them building on lease, your wife is a Director and accuse us of wrong-doing. Despite the clear link with them, the Congress has the audacity to point fingers at the BJP," Sitharaman said.
The allegations sparked an aggressive retort from Singhvi who threatened legal action against the Minister.
"Nirmala Sitharaman and her colleagues are liable to civil and criminal defamation for making ignorant and patently false allegations. I reserve my rights to take all such appropriate legal action against the latter and all parts of media which carry such allegations," Singhvi said.
"The BJP-NDA cheap sense of politics has reached ludicrous and ridiculous proportions. Neither my wife, sons nor me have anything whatsoever to do with Gitanjali or Nirav Modi companies."
He said Nirav Modi's company was a tenant of a Kamla Mills Property owned by Adwait Holdings in which his wife and sons were directors.
Adwait Holdings, he said, owned a commercial property at Parel which was rented by Firestone many years ago. "Neither Adwait nor my family has any interest with Modi or Firestone. Last August Firestone gave notice to quit tenancy and vacated Parel Kamla Mills premises in December 2017."
He said the BJP can deny its wrongdoing but "don't do this kind of propaganda".