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Sarcastic Sitharaman hits back at Congress on wilful loan defaulter list

Published Apr 29, 2020, 1:08 pm IST
Updated Apr 29, 2020, 1:08 pm IST
Wilful defaulters beneficiaries of 'phone banking' under UPA regime: Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. (PTI)
 Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. (PTI)

New Delhi: The video Rahul Gandhi posted on Twitter last night -- of him making a demand in Parliament for release of the list of willful loan defaulters -- there are cutaway shots of Nirmala Sitaraman. She’s made to look shifty-eyed as Rahul Gandhi makes the point that the government is deliberately trying to shield its friends who are in that list.

The RBI has now released, in response to an RTI petition, that list of willful defaulters, who together were given writeoffs amounting to Rs 68,000 crore in the last financial year.


In the telling of the Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala, it is full of Friends of the BJP, such as:

Top of the list is fugitive jeweler Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Gems with a whopping writeoff of of ₹5,492 crore.

This is followed by entities REI Agro with ₹4,314 crore and Winsome Diamonds with ₹4,076 crore.

Rotomac Global Private Limited has an outstanding of ₹2,850 crore which has been technically written off.

Ruchi Soya Industries Limited, now owned by Ramdev's Patanjali, with ₹2,212 crore.

Somewhere in the list there’s Vijay Mallya too.


As expected a tu tu main main has erupted between the feisty finance minister and the Congress. As is the norm whenever loan incompetence of India’s banks is shown up, Sitaraman walked us back to the days of UPA rule to say that the rot began there and she’s only trying to clean it up.

In a series of tweets, Sitaraman put up a stout defence of how her ministry has handled the issu.

All the willful defaulters, she said, were in fact beneficiaries of the ‘phone banking' system that was rampant in the UPA regime 2009-2014. That apparently how the powerful secured loans running into several thousands of crores: just phone up bank and asked the money to be sent over.


The finance minister said the Congress is now trying to mislead people, and asked Rahul Gandhi why he won’t play a constructive role in cleaning up the system.

She said between 2009-10 and 2013-14 scheduled commercial banks had written off Rs 1,45,226 crore, she quipped, trying to make the present Rs 68k writeoff look small in comparison.

She also took the support of Raghuram Rajan -- whose creds as an economist she once dissed. She quoted the former RBI guv as saying that back in 2006-2008 "too many loans were made to well-connected promoters who have a history of defaulting on their loans".


And she concluded, "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'.

In another tweet she purported to say that her ministry never tried to keep the list a secret.

She tweeted: "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.

The finmin emphasised that it is the Narendra Modi-led government that is pursuing cases against the wilful defaulters and 9,967 recovery suits, 3,515 FIRs, invoking of the 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 case by case, 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."

Mehul Choksi: "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."


Nirav Modi: "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."