t is well-known that Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya are not the only ones who fled the country after committing financial frauds of Himalayan proportions. Even now, the Union government is not ready to put on record the number of such sharks who fooled the systems and deserted the scene. Yet, a statement the Enforcement Directorate (ED) submitted before a special trial court this week says there were as many as 36 such escapes in recent times. The mention of ‘recent times’ is probably to keep the picture vague. It could be surmised that the recent years should cover the five-year term of the present government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This existing scenario needs to be linked to the promise of Modi in the last Lok Sabha poll campaign; a time when he staked claim for the PM post. His promise, repeated at election rallies across the country, was to bring to book all those who have fled the country with loads of money, or converted currency, to be deposited in tax havens. Modi’s promise was also to get back such money, which he said he would put in the bank accounts of India’s poor at the rate of Rs 15 lakh per account. Modi opened accounts for poor Indians, but put no money as he could get back no black money that was supposedly stashed abroad. Efforts by the government to get back Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi have so far gone in vain, and they seem to be living safe in the UK. They have the right to fight their cases, but it would appear that the Indian government has not shown sincerity in their extradition. The way these businessmen have managed to fool the system is encouraging more such fraudulent business entities to play with banks.
The ED’s earlier reference came in a case against a bail plea advanced by Sushen Mohan Gupta in the AugustaWestland VVIP choppers scam. Granting him bail, ED argued, would result in a situation similar to the one faced by the nation from the 36 who have fled the country. The ED is obviously keen on keeping Gupta in India because it, and by extension the Modi government, hoped to extract some information to expose the Congress leadership. A reference to ‘RG’ in documents seized in connection with the chopper probe seems to have excited the Modi government, including the ED. Of course no one truly knows the contents of the documents. It would not be surprising if it is found later that the investigating agencies had ‘doctored’ relevant documents to please current political masters, as is a normal routine in India.
At the same time, no similar enthusiasm or call of duty was evident in the case of many others who have fled the country in the past years. The Modi government’s record in pursuing these cases to their logical conclusion is depressing. Nothing much has moved on any front. There are also those who are living in the country, have taken banking institutions for granted and not paying back huge sums they took as loan. The bad debts or NPAs of public sector banks were of the scary order of over Rs 10.17 lakh crore till the 2017-18 fiscal; of which those of Rs 3.16 lakh crore was part recovered and part written off. Interestingly, no one in this country questions as to who these big defaulters are. While the banking system is extremely strict in granting small and medium loans to entrepreneurs, the big operators can easily layer themselves with loans from various banks.