PUNE: Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan today demanded Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's resignation on "moral grounds" in connection with the alleged fraud at the Punjab National Bank (PNB), which he said had raised a "big question mark" on the country's banking system.
Chavan alleged that Nirav Modi, the billionaire diamantaire who is the alleged kingpin of the Rs 11,400-crore fraud, was given a "safe passage" to leave the country by the BJP-led central government, "like it did for Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi".
Nirav Modi had left the country last month before the alleged scam came to light.
"The government helped the entire family of Nirav Modi by giving them a safe passage (to leave the country)," the former Maharashtra chief minister said at a press conference here.
Chavan said Jaitley did not utter a single word on the PNB issue for four days, whereas Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Prakash Javadekar, "who do not have any direct relation with banking", were defending the government.
"The entire matter is very serious and after this incident, a big question mark has been raised on the entire banking system.
Jaitley should step down as finance minister by taking the moral responsibility," Chavan, who had served as the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office under the UPA rule, said.
Breaking his silence on the PNB fraud, Jaitley had yesterday said the State would chase down the culprits to the end.
Referring to Mallya, the liquor baron and loan defaulter who reportedly left the country in 2016, and Lalit Modi, the former IPL commissioner who fled the country in 2010, Chavan said there was no possibility that Nirav Modi would be brought back to India from abroad.
"Like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, he (Nirav Modi) too has gone out of the country under the government's patronage," he alleged.
The PNB has allegedly been defrauded of Rs 11,400 crore by Nirav Modi and his associates.
The alleged fraud took place with the help of fraudulent letters of undertaking (LoUs).
Several agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and the Income Tax department, are investigating the matter.
Referring to the "Magnetic Maharashtra" summit, an investors' conclave that was recently organised by the Maharashtra government in Mumbai, Chavan said there were "discrepancies" in the figures released by the government on the quantum of foreign investments and jobs generated through the "Make In Maharashtra" initiative.
"The state government should come up with a clear explanation on foreign investments and job generation in the last three years," he said.
On the Virgin Group's "intent agreement" with the state government to build a hyperloop transportation system between Mumbai and Pune, the Congress leader said, "Considering the high infrastructural cost of the project, the government should explain its feasibility and practicality".