NEW DELHI: The BJP today alleged that the multi-crore PNB scam involving billionaire jewellery designer Nirav Modi happened during the UPA rule and the Congress was spreading lies to mislead the public.
The BJP, which fielded Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to counter the Congress's charges, claimed that it was under the NDA government that the alleged scams committed during the UPA rule were being unearthed.
The Congress has alleged that the scam took place in 2017 under the Modi government when letters of understanding were signed by Punjab National Bank in favour of the companies of Nirav Modi and his partner and uncle Mehul Choksi.
Sitharaman said Nirav Modi may have been able to run away from the country, but the government is taking action against him, and claimed that it will "surely nab him".
"The original sin took place during the Congress regime. It multiplied, it took traction under the Congress regime," she told reporters.
"We are not conspiring to help scamsters flee the country, but the BJP government is catching them instead," she said.
Accusing the Congress of spreading lies on the issue, the minister said, "As always, the Congress party indulges in such scandalous affairs, misuses positions in government, tweaks system to help themselves and quietly cover up everything that they do." Sitharaman said the Narendra Modi government came to power with a clear commitment of unearthing scams and corrupt practices.
Instead of explaining as to why the scam happened during the UPA rule, the Congress instead is making allegations against the BJP.
"I am sorry, the Congress party's allegations against this government and in misleading people is just not going to happen.
Concerted repeating of lies for misleading people may be a strategy the Congress likes to adopt. But I am sorry the facts are facing you and it is for them to answer," she said.
To a question on the offenders fleeing the country during the NDA regime, Sitharaman said, "They have fled but this doesn't mean we will not catch him. But they are facing the heat. Investigation is happening."
"They are probably running away but I am not saying that we are sparing them. We will surely nab them. We are the ones to nab them," she said.
She alleged that the person who was approving the LoUs was quietly allowed to retire and the BJP which is taking action is being accused instead.
"We have taken action. We have sent notices, confiscated their properties and the process is still on, but allegation is on us.
Shocking that the Congress party (is doing this) despite being reduced to 44 in Lok Sabha," she said.
Sitharaman also alleged that it was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who attended a promotional event hosted by Nirav Modi.
She also claimed that the Nirav Modi-run Fire Star Diamond International has taken on lease a property of Adwait Holdings in which Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi's wife is a director.
"What is important that the premises has been used by Fire Star Diamond International," she alleged.
Sitharaman also claimed that a government director of Allahabad Bank, who in 2013 had raised objections to the financial restructuring of Gitanjali Gems, was asked to resign and his dissent was not even recorded.
Central probe agencies CBI and ED yesterday continued their crackdown in the Rs 11,400-crore bank fraud case involving Nirav Modi and family, registering a fresh case against Choksi, The CBI has alleged that the new FIR pertains to 143 LOUs worth over Rs 4,886 crore fraudulently issued to three companies of Choksi -- Gitanjali Gems, Nakshatra and Gili -- during the period 2017-18, officials said.
The agency had earlier registered a separate case involving Rs 280-crore fraud, which has now been expanded to cover LoUs worth Rs 6,498 crore issued to accused companies of Nirav Modi and Choksi.
An LoU is a letter of comfort issued by one bank to branches of other banks, based on which foreign branches offer credit to buyers.