The Congress on Thursday launched a blistering attack against Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for his ‘lies’ on the UPA government’s 80:20 policy on gold imports.
Speaking to reporters, the party’s chief spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala accused the BJP of speaking “downright lies, deliberate falsehood and desperate diversion.” Surjewala asked that if the UPA government’s policy had indeed helped the likes of Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi, then will the current government file an FIR against Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for supporting the same policy as the Union Commerce Minister.
He said, “If the gold import scheme 80:20 is a scam as professed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, will he ask the PM to register an FIR against the then Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for justifying and validating the ‘Gold Import Scheme’ both inside and outside Parliament?… Will Union Law Minister seek resignation of the then Union Commerce Minister for validating ’80:20 Gold Import Scheme?'”
Surjewala released the Sitharaman’s reply in the Rajya in response to a question from an MP from Tamil Nadu, AW Rabi Bernard. In her reply, Sitharaman had said, “With a view to institutionalize the Bullion trade, the government has taken a number of measures which include:- ….80:20 Scheme was introduced by RBI for import of gold by nominated agencies/banks which provides for 20% gold to be made available to exporters out of each consignment imported in the country and the balance for domestic use.”
Further in her reply, Sitharaman had used the 80:20 policy as one of the measures taken by the Modi government to institutionalise the bullion trade. She had said, “Star Trading Houses/Premier Trading Houses have been permitted to import gold under 80:20 Scheme.”
Prasad on Wednesday had attacked former finance minister, P Chidambaram, for introducing the 80:20 gold scheme, which according to the minister, had helped Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi. While addressing a news conference, Prasad had said, “The UPA government, during P Chidambaram’s tenure, opened all doors for favourable companies. The ones who were prohibited from participating in the 80:20 gold scheme were also brought into the fold.”
Questions may be asked if the Congress government’s 80:20 gold policy had indeed helped two masterminds of the Rs 11,400 crore PNB scam, then why had Prasad’s cabinet colleague validated the same scheme in August 2014.
Surjewala said, “Modi Government and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad have been peddling white lies and deliberate falsehood in their sinister game to befool the people on the 80:20 gold import scheme and divert attention from their tacit complicity in the fleece and fly scheme of ‘Chhotta Modi 2 i.e Nirav Modi’ and ‘hamare’ Mehul Choksi.’ The truth is ‘benefactors of gold importers’ are crying ‘thief’ to cover up their misdeeds.”
Surjewala also released a copy of the Gitanjali Gems’ annual report for 2013-14, where Choksi is seen confessing that the UPA’s policy of 80:20 on bullion import had caused a slowdown in his business. The Congress party’s head of media said that Choksi’s profits went up to Rs 18.86 crore in 2014-15, against a loss of Rs 22.65 crore the previous year under the UPA regime.
Both Choksi and Nirav Modi fled India in early January after defrauding the Indian banks of at least Rs 11,400 crore. This, according to analysts is the biggest ever banking scam in the history of independent India. Nirav Modi was later seen in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s business delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Nirav Modi posing for the camera with India’s prime minister had caused unprecedented embarrassment to the Centre’s BJP government.
There were also reports that Nirav Modi had deposited Rs 90 crore hours before PM Modi announced demonetisation on 8 November 2016.