It has been several years since I used the phrase ‘shameless audacity’, but somehow, I feel compelled to use it again and again to describe the saga of this newer Modi – and here, everything is personal. The reason is as follows: in a country of over 1.2 billion people, the majority struggles to have access to basic amenities to survive the day-to-day chaos and challenges. And then, we meet and see these characters, rather filthy ones, who seem to have been born on the backseat of an Audi. These people can simply rip us off – in this case, one of the biggest nationalised banks in India (with 6,941 domestic branches, and 9,753 ATMs) was duped.
It is personal because at present (and most likely in future as well), we don’t know who will pay the price. Mallya lives abroad, Lalit is out there, and now Nirav and Mehul. These are people who say that earning money is bad, work hard or be smart and earn – don’t just rob us. Then it becomes personal. It is personal because people like me have to roam around bank branches just to understand the technicalities while you guys suddenly find a way out – out of the country with all of our money.
During my college days back in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, we had several discussions about “Banker To The Poor” and how banks should reach out to people. Banking and microfinance was one of the subjects – and it was around that time when investment banking took a fall and the Lehman Brothers could not carry on any longer. Slowly, we got into our jobs and higher studies and those discussions became limited to our occasional conversations – and now, they take space on social media.
Forbes profiled him as follows:
1. Indian-born diamond jewelry designer Nirav Modi is the founder of the $2.3 billion Firestar Diamond.
2. Modi grew up in Belgium, dropped out of Wharton and moved to India where he got trained in the diamond trade under his uncle.
3. He went on to launch the Nirav Modi brand with 16 stores in locations such as Delhi, Mumbai, New York, Hong Kong, London and Macau.
According to NDTV:
1. In 1999, Nirav Modi set up a diamond sourcing and trading company called Firestar Diamond. The company is worth $2.3 billion today.
2. Brand Nirav Modi debuted with a pair of earrings that the billionaire designed for his friend in 2008.
3. Nirav Modi has a long list of star clients – Kate Winslet, Steven Spielberg, Sharon Stone and Aishwarya Rai to name just a few.
4. Donald Trump, now US President, inaugurated his first store in New York’s Madison Avenue in 2015.
5. Last year, Priyanka Chopra, who scored Hollywood success with her hit series Quantico, was roped in as the brand’s global ambassador.
6. Nirav Modi has jewellery boutiques across three continents – in London, New York, Las Vegas, Hawai, Singapore, Beijing and Macau. In India, Nirav Modi has his stores in Mumbai and Delhi.
And now, he is one of the prime accused in an ongoing investigation where the CBI is acting on a complaint from the Punjab National Bank (PNB), a state banking institution. PNB alleges that Modi and his partners defrauded the bank, thereby causing a loss of around ₹280 crores (approximately $40 million), by conspiring with bank officials to fraudulently obtain Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) for making payments to overseas suppliers.
Should we talk about the poor quality of roads, problems related to access to quality healthcare, literacy rate, unemployment, caste-class issues among other things to explain the gravity of the situation? Well, probably we don’t need to. Nirav did us in – and it’s likely that he will never come back.
A case study can and should be written about how the whole scam took place – and how the bank, the agencies and the government either could not see it happening or perhaps overlooked it.
Do I know the solution? Yes, just fix it. Put them in prison. Take the money back, and don’t harass or depress us anymore with some additional burdens which we can’t afford.
“Banker To The Poor” is a story which ends with Mohammad Yunus getting the Nobel Prize. However, we are yet to witness what ‘Making Banks Poor’ will do to Nirav and his like.
I guess I should just share another WhatsApp message now:
“Ravi Subramanian’s fictional book (“In The Name of God” – Penguin) that released last year was about a banking fraud story.
The main fraudster was a powerful jewellery trader by the name Nirav Choksi.
Nirav Choksi was India’s most exclusive jeweler whose high flying clientele included half of Hollywood and India’s socialites.
The two main jewelers in the current PNB fraud story are Nirav Modi and his mama Mehul Choksi. Nirav Modi is/was India’s most exclusive jeweller. Is this a coincidence?”
Featured image used for representative purposes only.