Charges levelled by Law minister baseless, not borne by facts: Congress

Terming as ‘baseless’ charges levelled by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that the 80:20 scheme of gold imports brought by the previous UPA government helped fraudsters like Nirav Modi carry out the Punjab and National Bank (PNB) fraud, the Congress on Tuesday charged the Government with diverting attention from the various bank scams under this government.

Talking to reporters here, AICC senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said, the ‘charges levelled by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at a press conference on Monday are not borne by facts. Mr Prasad, in his press conference, has made unwarranted allegations that we reject. It is an attempt to escape accountability on the biggest bank scam in post-Independence India.’

Rubbishing allegations that the policy was aimed at benefiting people like Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, Mr Sharma said, ‘under the Exim policy, import of gold was allowed for the jewellery industry. Further, two trading PSUs of the government — the MMTC and the STC — were allowed to import gold. Actually, the scheme was announced after there was a sharp increase in the import of gold due to the festive season, leading to a pressure on the current account deficit, especially due to a sharp rise in international crude prices.

In the situation, the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram proposed to make it mandatory that gold imports would be only by notified agencies and the two trading PSUs and that 20 per cent of gold imported be exclusively be used for exports. So, whosoever wanted to import gold had to show proof of 20 per cent exports. By suggesting that the scheme benefited people like Nirav Modi, was the law minister trying to say that putting restriction on gold imports was wrong?’

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Prasad also raised questions over exceptions granted under the 80:20 scheme of gold imports. The minister especially flagged exceptions granted by then finance minister P. Chidambaram which, he alleged, included the Gitanjali group whose founder Nirav Modi is now on the run following the Punjab and National Bank (PNB) scam.

“On May 16, 2014, it was already clear that the UPA government was on its way out. I want to ask Mr Chidambaram why these exceptions to seven private companies, including the Gitanjali group, allowing them to import gold, was done. Is this a jumla or corruption? Was it ethical to do it,’ Mr Prasad asked.

Mr Sharma alleged that the Law Minister’s remarks were another attempt by this government to escape accountability in the bank scams and divert attention from them.
‘The Government is not giving any reply on the Rs 27,000-crore fraud under its rule and is instead levelling baseless allegations against the previous Congress government,’ ‘he said.


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