NEW DELHI: Refuting the Congress party's allegation that the NDA government helped jeweller Jatin Mehta, who has duped banks -- including the PNB -- of Rs 6,712 crore, flee from India, the BJP on Tuesday said he not only acquired "toxic assets" but also flew out of India during the UPA regime.
"Most of the advances or Letters of Credit (LCs) or all the loans were taken between September 2010 and February 2013. If there was lack of due diligence or connivance in the banking sector to make these advances available, that was entirely during the previous UPA regime," Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told a press conference.
Puri was responding to Congress allegations that the alleged jeweller duped banks of Rs 6,712 crore during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime and the Prime Minister was silent over the fraud.
"Many of these loans, bulk of these, took place during UPA 2. There were some loans of earlier vintage which go back to UPA 1," the Minister said.
Puri said Mehta's last entry in and exit from the country was on July 25, 2013, when the UPA was in power.
"To suggest that the NDA government has either anything to do with the generation of those toxic assets or those defaults, is a blatant lie. This is like 'ulta chor kotwal ko daante' (pot calling the kettle black). The Congress allegations are absurd," he said.
Puri said Mehta had acquired the nationality of St. Kitts in 2012 and despite that he came to India four times on Indian passport.
"He acquired the nationality of St. Kitts in 2012 and used the same passport to travel to India eight times. He took citizenship of St. Kitts before expiry of his Indian passport. It seems that he was given privilege in obtaining OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card," he said.
He said that the NDA government initiated action against Mehta soon after it came to power in 2014.
"The first complaint against him was filed in September 2014. The CBI and the ED registered cases against him as the scale of corruption came to notice. At least six FIRs were registered in 2017 only," he said.
The Congress had on March 1 claimed that the "art of leaving after defrauding banks" is the new culture under the Narendra Modi government, and said that after the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud accused Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi (jewellers from Palanpur, Gujarat), Mehta had duped the banks, including the PNB, of Rs 6,712 crore.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, who was also present at the press conference, said the eight bank fraud cases involving a total of Rs 54,318 crore which the Congress referred to were perpetrated by the Congress government.
"The manner in which procedures were flouted and the bank frauds were perpetrated clearly show the Congress 'hand' in these scandals. By crying hoarse, the Congress party cannot absolve its direct culpability, collusion and connivance in perpetrating these frauds," Rao said.
Calling it the "world's most corrupt party", he said the Congress whose senior leaders "were either in jail or on bail" cannot mislead people with its lies.
"Over the past few weeks, the Congress party has been making fraudulent attempts and spreading lies in the hope that the allegations would help it politically," he said.