A $2bn bank fraud case brought business to a standstill in both houses of India's parliament on Tuesday as opposition lawmakers demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak on the issue.
Billionaire jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, along with their companies, are accused of colluding with employees of the state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) to get $2bn worth of loans from a consortium of banks.
The jewellers are accused of getting letters of undertaking (LoUs) based on fraudulent claims from PNB, which bank officials did not enter in their internal software to avoid scrutiny.
An LoU is a guarantee given by an issuing bank to Indian banks with branches abroad to grant short-term credit to applicants. In case of default the bank issuing the LoU has to pay the liability.
An official of Central Bureau of Investigation escorts men suspected of steering fraudulent loans to companies linked to billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi outside a court in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Modi and Choksi travelled abroad in January 2018 and have not returned since. Their Indian passports have been cancelled and Interpol has been alerted to locate them.
India's opposition parties have been questioning how the government let them leave when investigations had already begun in the case.
Indian National Congress party lawmakers protested inside the Lok Sabha, or lower house, shouting slogans such as "Prime minister we need an answer, get back Nirav Modi."
The house was adjourned till Wednesday. Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the upper house after similar slogan shouting.
Federal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar cast blame on the opposition: "The government is ready for a discussion ... I can't understand why Congress is opposing it," referring to the disruptive protests.
The Central Bureau of Investigation so far has arrested 11 people in connection with its investigations including a former manager at PNB and a current employee.
Vipul Chitalia, vice president in charge of banking operations at the Gitanjali Group - one of the jewellery firms named in the fraud - was detained at Mumbai airport on Tuesday for questioning, a spokesman for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said.
The heads of PNB, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank were also summoned on Tuesday for questioning by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office in Mumbai, India Today news channel reported.
The Serious Fraud office works under the federal Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
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