Millennium Post

Fraudulence peaks

Even as a host of probing agencies, including the CBI and the ED are continuing with the questioning of officials and raids on assets countrywide—the prime accused in the Rs 11,300 crore fraud, Nirav Modi, has written a letter to the PNB management, accusing the bank of destroying his business and the brand by showing overzealousness and haste in reporting the matter to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the police, the probing agencies and making the issue a public matter. He also claimed that the bank has wrongly arrived at the credit figure of Rs 11,300 crore and his liability to the bank does not exceed Rs 5,000 crore, which he could have easily paid off by selling his assets in the country. The ED has conducted raids at nearly 100 premises linked to Nirav Modi and his businesses and seized assets worth more than Rs 5,000 crore so far. Modi argued that if the bank had acted in good faith and accepted his offer to repay the entire amount of credit, the bank would have received the entire amount. But, by making things public followed by the ensuing raids and seizure of assets, Modi, as per his letter, is unable to repay the amount. Modi also claimed that his company has been paying all their debts on time and there has not been any default. Also, the banks earned in crores by levying fees on the credits offered to Modi. He also claimed that the bank had wrongly named his wife, brother and uncle in the case as they are not connected with his business. Meanwhile, the CBI arrested three more PNB officials and the questioning is currently on. The Finance Ministry has asked for details in the systematic failure in detecting the fraud, even though it has been on for seven years. The CBI also sealed the PNB's Brady Road branch, but after complaints from the customers, the central probing agency unsealed it. Modi's lawyer Vijay Aggarwal claimed that there is nothing in the police complaint filed against Nirav Modi by the PNB and that he would disclose his defences once the CBI and ED file the charge sheet. In the case involving Vikram Kothari, promoter of Rotomac Pens, the charges now span Rs 3,700 crore from the initial estimate of Rs 800 crore. Kothari had availed loans from seven public sector banks and diverted the funds to other companies. He has Rs 2,919 crore of unpaid loans which after interest and penalty stood at Rs 3,695 crore. The charges against Kothari include misappropriation of funds, criminal breach of trusts and violation of FEMA regulations. The quick succession in which the two cases involving Nirav Modi and Vikram Kothari have unfolded gives rise to an atmosphere of anticipation where more such frauds are expected to come to light. As we know, the public sector banks have a huge pile of non-performing assets (NPA), there are many similar frauds waiting to come to light if the banks and investigating agencies become more vigilant. Banks are an important tool in the development of a country. They fund various business plans, allowing them to become reality and thereby contribute significantly to the country's GDP. If loans are easily accessible to the young and unemployed, they can create a livelihood for themselves and the government stands to benefit from this situation. But, if loans are selectively given to fraudsters, the country loses not only the money but also the opportunity that such money could have created. It is in this light that banks are expected to make loans accessible to young entrepreneurs as easily as it is available to big industries and corporates. But the public sector banks in India hardly ever showed any inclination to make funds accessible to young entrepreneurs, who find taking a bank loan so cumbersome that they are put off by the very mention of these banks and the possibility of getting a loan, while big businesses follow the banking guidelines on paper but have dubious intentions. Runaway business tycoon Vijay Mallya, billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi and Rotomac Pens' founder Vikram Kothari are the examples that explain in great detail how the banks have been lenient while sanctioning credit to big businessmen and how it allowed itself to be conned by them. All the cases related to Nirav Modi and Vikram Kothari are likely to be fought in the courts where the cases are expected to linger on for years before a final verdict is out. First, there were systematic failures to detect these cases of serious frauds and now, the courts will take their own sweet time to deliver judgments. A situation like this does not discourage fraudsters from swindling the banks' money. At the same time, it creates fear among smalltime entrepreneurs about availing bank loans.
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