Of late, there have been several revelations about crimes in high places that have gone unpunished. Whether at the State level or the tiol level the most popular form of crime for people in the topmost brackets of society is the siphoning of huge sums of public money that have ebled them to amass assets that could not have been acquired even in five generations of honest work. There is the case of a DFO of Assam who has maged to acquire land and property worth hundreds of crores of rupees not only in several locations of the State but also in posh localities of Delhi. In fact, his two properties in Delhi alone are worth several crores of rupees. This DFO had reportedly been aided by former Congress Minister Rockybul Hussain who is himself in a bit of trouble for having assets far in excess of his known sources of income. At the tiol level, we have Nirav Modi, a dealer in diamonds and jewellery, who maged to defraud the Punjab tiol Bank to the tune of Rs 11,400 crore. Nirav Modi claims that his own companies are indebted to the Punjab tiol Bank for less than Rs 5,000 crore, and that it is the addition of the sum of Rs 4,887 crore owed by his uncle Mehul Ckoksi that brings of the total of the alleged defrauded amount to around Rs 10,000 crore, somewhat lower than the amount of Rs 11,400 crore quoted by the Punjab tiol Bank. In a letter addressed to the Punjab tiol Bank magement on February 15/16, Nirav Modi said, “The erroneously cited liability resulted in a media frenzy which led to immediate search and seizure of operations, and which in turn resulted in the Firestar Intertiol and Firestar Diamond Intertiol effectively ceasing to be going concerns. This thereby jeopardized our ability to discharge the duties of the group to the banks... In the anxiety to recover your dues immediately, despite my offer (on February 13, a day before the public announcement, and on 15) your actions have destroyed my brand and the business and have now restricted your ability to recover all the dues leaving a trail of unpaid debts.” This is a neat way of pretending that had the search and seizure operations not been carried out, Nirav Modi would have had no problems about clearing the entire debt to the Punjab tiol Bank, but that now the bank itself has been responsible for making it impossible for him to discharge his obligations to PNB.
In all such instances of siphoning out huge sums of public money, one notices a common failing. What the public gets to know about is who is responsible for the loot and—in some cases—the amount of public money looted. All government action seems to end there. There is no further news about what has been done to punish those who looted huge sums of public money. But what inevitably happens is that the perpetrators of such crimes are permitted to escape to other countries. Thereafter, the business of getting them extradited to India becomes a virtually impossible task. We have the cases of Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. The other inexplicable facet of this fashioble malaise is that banks should be so keen to lend thousands of crores to people with poor records of their ability and willingness to repay huge loans. In a sense, therefore, our banks are themselves responsible for what ‘adventurous’ entrepreneurs and industrialists are able to do to their money. The government, in turn, is guilty of making such fincial crimes look like some sort of rituals to amuse the tion rather than the most heinous crimes against public wealth. This is largely because the government has totally failed to punish unscrupulous borrowers of public money who have no intentions of repaying such loans. It is as though we have a government that is content to provide the entertainment that such swindles give rise to but are not in a position to punish the crimils because they are big guns. A government needs better credentials to survive.