'Wilful defaulters benefited from UPA's phone banking'

Wilful defaulters beneficiaries of 'phone banking' under UPA regime: Nirmala Sitharaman

Nirmala Sitharaman. (PTI Photo)

Hitting out at the Congress party, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that wilful defaulters were beneficiaries of 'phone banking' under the UPA regime and the Modi government is chasing them to recover the dues.

She was responding to the opposition’s allegations of loan waivers worth Rs 68,607 crore in the form of write-offs of top 50 wilful defaulters during the first half of the financial year ended March 2020.

The Finance Minister, through a series of tweets posted late night on Tuesday, said that the Congress has attempted to mislead people, and former Congress President Rahul Gandhi should introspect why his party fails to play a constructive role in cleaning up the system.

"Shri @RahulGandhi MP (LS) and Shri @rssurjewala spokesperson of @INCIndia have attempted to mislead people in a brazen manner. Typical to @INCIndia, they resort to sensationalising facts by taking them out of context. In the following tweets wish to respond to the issues raised.

"@INCIndia and Shri.@RahulGandhi should introspect why they fail to play a constructive role in cleaning up the system. Neither while in power, nor while in the opposition has the @INCIndia shown any commitment or inclination to stop corruption & cronyism," she said.

Highlighting that between 2009-10 and 2013-14, scheduled commercial banks had written off Rs 1,45,226 crore, she quipped, “Wished Gandhi consulted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on what this writing-off was about”.

She also referred to media reports quoting former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan as having said that a large number of bad loans originated in the period 2006-2008 and "too many loans were made to well-connected promoters who have a history of defaulting on their loans".

"Those defaulters who do not repay despite having capacity to pay, divert or siphon-off funds, or dispose of secured assets without bank’s permission are categorised as wilful defaulters. They are those well connected promoters who benefitted from UPA’s ‘phone banking’," she added.

In another tweet she said, "Earlier, on 18.11.2019, in the Lok Sabha for an unstarred Question no:52, a list of “Borrowers flagged as wilful defaulter by Public Sector Banks under CRILIC (Central Repository of Information on Large Credits) reporting as on 30.09.2019 (For borrowers with exposure of Rs. 5 crore and above, Global operations) was provided."

Bank-wise details of aggregate funded amount outstanding and amount technically/prudentially written off pertaining to top 50 wilful defaulters was provided as an annex to the answer to Lok Sabha starred question 305 of Gandhi on March 16, 2020.

However, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said he had asked the government in Parliament the names of the top 50 bank loan defaulters, but the Finance Minister did not answer his question.

"Now the RBI has given the names of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and many of BJP’s ''friends'' in the list of bank frauds. That is why this truth was held back from Parliament," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

The Congress alleged the government waived loans worth Rs 6.66 lakh crore since 2014 till September 2019.

Sitharaman said this is an attempt of Congress leaders to mislead on wilful defaulters, bad loans and write-offs.

She emphasised that it is the Narendra Modi-led government which is pursuing cases against these wilful defaulters and 9,967 recovery suits, 3,515 FIRs, invoking of Fugitive Amendment Act in cases are on now.

The total value of attachment and seizures in the cases of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya is about Rs 18,332.7 crore, she said.

Sharing details, she tweeted: "Vijay Mallya Case: Total value at the time of attachment was Rs 8,040 crore and of seizure was Rs 1,693 crore. Value of shares at the time of seizure was Rs 1,693 crore. Declared fugitive offender. On extradition request by GoI, UK High Court, has also ruled for extradition."

In case of Mehul Choksi she said, "attachments of Rs 1,936.95 crore including foreign attachment of Rs 67.9 crore. Seizure of Rs 597.75 crore. Red Notice issued. Extradition request sent to Antigua. Hearing for declaration of Mehul Choksi as fugitive offender is in progress."

On the Nirav Modi case, the Finance Minister said, "Immovable and movable properties worth more than Rs 2,387 crore attached/seized. (Attachment Rs 1,898 crore and Seizure Rs 489.75 crore). This includes foreign attachments of Rs 961.47 crore. Auction of luxury items for Rs 53.45 crore. He is in prison in the UK."

Provisions are made for non-performing assets (NPAs) as per the four-year provisioning cycle laid down by the RBI, she said, adding, upon full provisioning being done banks write-off the fully provided NPA but continue to pursue recovery against the borrower and no loan is waived off.

On Tuesday, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala demanded answers from the Prime Minister on why their loans were waived.

"This is a classic case of promoting ''dupe, deceive and depart'' policy of the Modi government, which can no longer be accepted and the prime minister has to answer," Surjewala said.

He said the entire country is fighting the coronavirus and the government has no money to pay to states, but has the money to condone and write off Rs 68,607 crore of bank loan defaulters.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox