RBI Governor Urjit Patel appeared before the parliament’s standing committee on finance
Sources have told NDTV that the lawmakers grilled the regulator on the scale of the PNB (Punjab National Bank) scam that took place despite the Reserve Bank of India’s checks and balances and raised questions on the quality of monitoring.
On the panel’s agenda is to question the RBI chief on the impact of demonetisation and bad loans, specifically the Rs 13,000 crore-PNB fraud.
Celebrity jeweller Nirav Modi fled India in January nearly a fortnight before PNB, India’s second-largest government bank, detected the fraud. Nirav Modi allegedly managed thousands of crores in loans he never paid back, using fake guarantees supplied by PNB officials at a branch on Mumbai.
The billionaire, who has refused to return to India despite multiple summons by the CBI, is believed to be trying for political asylum in the UK.
Sources say a senior parliamentarian questioned Urjit Patel how Nirav Modi managed his illegal transactions for several years “despite the RBI’s supervisory norms”. Mr Patel was also asked who was accountable for the failure.
How were fake LoUs (Letters of Undertaking) going around for several years and why did the RBI fail to notice, Mr Patel was asked by MPs. “Why didn’t RBI check the credentials? RBI has powers to check and investigate every branch anywhere. Why didn’t it use the power?” the RBI chief was asked by a senior parliamentarian.
Nirav Modi and his relative Mehul Choksi, also accused of fraud, have refused to join the investigations claiming business engagements and health issues.
Mehul Choksi is reported to be in New York, where he was allegedly seen enjoying a meal in a lavish upmarket restaurant but his exact location remains unknown.
The CBI has asked the Interpol to issue a Red Corner Notice against the two, which means member countries can arrest and deport or extradite them.
Nirav Modi was last publicly seen in a Press Information Bureau group photograph of CEOs and senior executives of top companies with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Davos, Switzerland in late January.
A week later, the CBI registered an FIR against the two, among others, on the basis of a complaint from the PNB, they said.