Banks have "technically" written off a whopping Rs 68,607 crore in outstanding loans of top 50 wilful defaulters, including of firms belonging to fugitive economic offenders Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya, till September 30, 2019, according to details provided by the Reserve Bank of India to an RTI query.
Chief Spokesperson of Congress Randeep Surjewala released the list of the defaulters while sharing the response of the RBI to the query filed by activist Saket Gokhale.
In his reaction, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi 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 out the list which includes Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and many of BJP's "friends", he said.
"I asked a straight question in Parliament -- state the names of the 50 top bank loan defaulters in the country. The finance minister refused to answer the 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.
According to the RTI reply, absconding diamantaire Choksi's company Gitanjali Gems tops the list of the defaulters with a whopping amount of Rs 5,492 crore. This is followed by REI Agro with Rs 4,314 crore and Winsome Diamonds with Rs 4,076 crore.
Rotomac Global Private Limited has funded advances of Rs 2,850 crore which have been technically written off and Kudos Chemie Ltd with Rs 2,326 crore, Ruchi Soya Industries Limited, now owned by Ramdev's Patanjali, with Rs 2,212 crore and Zoom Developers Pvt Ltd with Rs 2,012 crore being the other companies to default on the payment.
Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines figures in the list at number 9, with outstanding of Rs 1943 crore which have been technically written off by the banks.
Forever Precious Jewellery and Diamonds Private Limited has loans of Rs 1,962 crore written off while Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited have Rs 1915 crore written off loans, according to the RTI reply.
Choksi's other firms Gili India and Nakshatra Brands also have loans of Rs 1,447 and Rs 1109 crore respectively written off.
Vikram Kothari's Rotomac is the fourth in the list, according to the details provided by the RBI, the RTI reply said.
He and his son Rahul Kothari were arrested by the CBI for bank loan default.
In the last Parliament session, Gandhi had asked the government to provide a list of top 50 bank loans defaulters in the country, leading to sharp exchanges and uproar in the Lok Sabha.
"The information on top 50 wilful defaulters and their sum of funded amount outstanding and amount technically/prudentially written off as on September 30, 2019 reported in CRILC by banks, is provided," the RBI said in its written response dated April 24.
Surjewala demanded answers from the prime minister on why their loans were waived when the country was reeling under serious economic stress.
"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," he told reporters through video conference.
Surjewala also said, "This reflects the misconceived priorities and dishonest intentions of the Modi government".
He said while the Modi government did not have money to provide to states to fight coronavirus and to pay dearness allowance to government employees, pensioners and defence personnel, it was waiving off loans of the rich.
"Why were these loans waived? The government should spell out the reason. Why is the prime minister silent? The country is seeking answers. The prime minister will have to tell the people," he said and asked whether the government was under any pressure to do so.
The RBI said that according to section 8 (1)(a) of RTI Act 2005 read with para 77 of Supreme Court judgement of December 16, 2015 in Jayantilal N Mistry case, information on overseas borrowers is exempted from public disclosure.
"Data is as reported by banks and RBI will not be held responsibly or accountable for any misreporting and/or incorrect reporting by the reporting entities," the RBI said in the written reply to the RTI query.
Surjewala also claimed that a total of Rs 80,893 crore was waived till September 2019 of defaulters and Rs 2.12 lakh crore in 2018-19.