New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) The Congress on Thursday said Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was peddling “white lies” to befool people on ’80:20 Gold Import Scheme’ and asked if he would seek the resignation of then Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for validating the scheme.
The party said that on August 13, 2014, Sitharaman justified the ’80:20 Gold Import Scheme’ on the floor of Parliament as also permitting import of gold by ‘Start Trading Houses/Premier Trading Houses’ under the scheme as measures taken by the Narendra Modi government to ‘institutionalise the bullion trade’.
The party further questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sitharaman’s silence on the issue.
It also said that on August 21, 2014, the Finance Secretary also justified the scheme as a correct measure.
“Modi government and Prasad have been peddling white lies and deliberate falsehood in their sinister game to befool the people on ’80:20 Gold Import Scheme’.
“They are diverting attention from their tacit complicity in the fleece and fly scheme of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi. The truth is benefactors of gold importers are crying thief to cover up their misdeeds,” said Congres spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The party said “as gold imports were controlled and it was affecting the profitability of the likes of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, Modi government suddenly ordered withdrawal of all restrictions on import of gold on November 28, 2014”.
“Interestingly, this was a direction was given by the Modi government and not a decision taken by RBI,” said Sujewala.
The BJP had accused former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram of aiding jewellers Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi — main accused in a multi-crore bank fraud case — through 80:20 gold import scheme.
BJP leader Prasad said that Chidambaram gave his “blessings and benefits under the 80:20 scheme” to seven private jewellers on May 16, 2014, the day the results of Lok Sabha polls were announced.
Surjewala said: “As Modi government lifted all restrictions on gold import on November 28, 2014, turnover and profit of Mehul Choksi’s companies dramatically increased by over 200 per cent.
“Jewellery exports increased from Rs 1,019 crore (2013-14) to Rs 2,454 crore (2014-15) and domestic jewelry sales also increased from Rs 1,685 crore (2013-14) to Rs 2,073 (2014-15).”
The leader said: “His (Choksi’s) companies went up from a loss of Rs 22.65 crore (2013-14) to a profit of Rs 18.86 crore (2014-15) i.e over 200 per cent. None less than the fraudster Mehul Choksi, admitted the slowdown to ‘Gold Import Scheme’ in the annual report 2013-14 and 2014-15.”
Surjewala asked: “Didn’t the ‘Gold Import Scheme 80:20’ check the unregulated gold imports, save precious foreign exchange and institutionalise the bullion trade? Did it not lead of reduction of CAD (Current Account Deficit) from 4.8 per cent in 2012-13 to 1.7 per cent in 2013-14?”
He also asked “did the abolishing of the gold import scheme not lead to free and unchecked import of gold by the likes of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi”?
He said that if the scheme is a scam, as professed by Prasad, will he ask the Prime Minister to register an FIR against Sitharaman and then Finance Secretary for justifying it.