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A reply under RTI from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) revealed that Indian banks have technically written off an amount of Rs 68,607 crore due from 50 top wilful defaulters, including absconding diamantaire Mehul Choksi.
An RTI query was earlier filed with the RBI by prominent RTI activist Saket Gokhale, seeking details of the 50 top wilful defaulters along with their current loan status till February 16.
"I filed this RTI because Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur had refused to reply to this starred question asked in the Parliament by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in the last Budget Session on February 16," Gokhale told IANS.
RBI's Central Public Information Officer Abhay Kumar on Saturday, April 24, made revelations in the 'diamond-studded list', said Gokhale.
According to the RBI, the amount of Rs 68,607 crore comprises outstanding and the amounts technically/prudentially written off till September 30, 2019.
An inadvertent error in a previous version of the report has now been corrected.
"The apex bank also declined to provide the relevant information on overseas borrowers citing a Supreme Court judgement of December 16, 2015," Gokhale told IANS.
Choksi's scam-hit company, Gitanjali Gems Limited, which owed Rs 5,492 crore tops the list, besides other group companies, Gili India Ltd which had taken a loan of Rs 1,447 crore and Nakshatra Brands Ltd with a loan of Rs 1,109 crore.
While Choksi is now a citizen of Antigua & Barbados Isles, Nirav Modi - his nephew and another absconder - is in London.
REI Agro Ltd., with an amount of Rs 4,314 crore, is second in the list. Its directors Sandip Jhujhunwala and Sanjay Jhunjhunwala are under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for more than a year.
In the Rs 4,000-crore bracket, absconding diamantaire Jatin Mehta's Winsome Diamonds & Jewellery owing Rs 4,076 crore is next on the list, and is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation for various bank frauds.
Kanpur-based writing instruments giant, Rotomac Global Pvt. Ltd., part of the famed Kothari group is in the Rs 2,000-crore category, which owed Rs 2,850 crore.
Others in this category include Kudos Chemie, Punjab (Rs 2,326 crore), Baba Ramdev and Balkrishna's group company Ruchi Soya Industries Ltd., Indore (Rs 2,212 crore), and Zoom Developers Pvt. Ltd., Gwalior (Rs 2,012 crore).
Among the 18 companies in the Rs 1K crore-segment are names like Harish R. Mehta's Ahmedabad-based Forever Precious Jewellery & Diamonds Pvt. Ltd. (Rs 1,962 crore), and absconder liquor baron Vijay Mallya's defunct Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. (Rs 1,943 crore).
25 more companies fall in the same category, either individually or as group companies, with outstandings ranging from Rs 605 crore to Rs 984 crore.
Six among the 50 top wilful defaulters have connections with diamond and/or gold jewellery industries.
"A majority of them have defaulted prominent nationalist banks over the past several years and many of them are either absconding or facing action by various probe agencies and some are under litigation," CNBC-TV18 quoted Gokhale as saying.
As the top 50 willful defaulters are spread across several economic sectors like IT, infrastructure, power, gold-diamond jewellery, pharma, etc., no industry is sacrosanct.
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