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Friday, 20 January 2012

Government & Corruption

Government & Corruption
The most damaging weakness of India’s political class is its lack of credibility. Regardless of the truth, people at large are convinced that the entire political class is corrupt. The government covers up corruption cases. The opposition dares not pursue them even when those in the government are involved. The Scorpene deal, the Koda mining scam, the Raja Spectrum scam, the IPL scam – the list of unresolved cases that do, or will, gather dust seems endless. The highest leadership in both the government and the opposition lacks public credibility. This is because of the curious inertia displayed by these leaders even after circumstances cloud their reputations. The biggest scam currently on the radar is of course the Hassan Ali Khan Hawala scam.

Corruption has become so widespread and brazen that it is destroying the foundations of the Indian Republic. India can stand on the roof and watch its neighbour’s house in flames. Why doesn't it look below its feet to realize that its own house is burning?       

Readers will recall this scribe had earlier drawn attention to theHassan Ali scam and the government’s brazen cover up to bury the truth. Hassan Al is the owner of a Pune stud farm. He has 10 known illegal Swiss bank accounts, probably more in other tax havens. His money stashed abroad is astronomical.According to the government's statement he owed Rs 50,345 crore to the tax department as on 31 March 2009.According to accountants that sum would have escalated to approximately Rs 100,000 crore by when Budget 2010 was presented. On October 20, 2009 this scribe pointed out how according to Swiss authorities while the Indian government publicly sought help in probing Hassan Ali’s Swiss account, privately it sabotaged the probe by submitting “forged” documents asked for by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice.Swiss authorities wanted to help, but Indian authorities withheld proper documentation. Since April 2007 the Indian government has kept mum on the Swiss request for proper documents.

On March 18 2010 this scribe drew attention to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statement to the media that the government had recovered the tax dues from Hassan Ali. But the revised estimates for 2009-10 did not accommodate the Rs 100,000 crore due from Hassan Ali in the Budget figures. Further, the existing Income Tax Act was amended to waive impediments for tax defaulters like Hassan Ali to approach the Settlement Commission for resolving tax disputes. If Hassan Ali Khan approaches the Commission it would enable the government to evade sharing information about Hassan Ali’s undisclosed foreign assets with foreign governments as required by the international tax treaties entered into by the government.
Clearly, Finance Minister Mukherjee is covering up the Hassan Ali probe. Why? The answer may have been given in the Maharashtra Assembly. On April 13th a CD showing Hassan Ali was laid on the table of the House by BJP MLA Devendra Phadnavis. The CD contained Ali's statement to police in which he mentioned names of former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil and Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her political secretary, Ahmed Patel. In the CD Ali claimed a meeting involving RR Patil and Ahmed Patel at Juhu Centaur Hotel on 11 August 2008 to approve Hasan Gafoor’s name as Mumbai’s police commissioner. Home Minister Patil vehemently denied any association with Ali. "I have never met Ahmed Patel and never spoken to him face to face. The CID will probe if the motive of the CD was to harm Gafoor, me, Ahmed Patel or anybody else", Patil told the assembly.
The government ordered an inquiry conducted by Additional Director General, Crime Investigative Department (CID) and SP, S. Yadav. The CD was prepared by the use of spy cam by Deputy Police Commissioner Ashok Deshbhratar. Predictably, the politicians named have not been questioned. Their denials have been accepted at face value. Instead the CID charged IPS officer Ashok Deshbhratar who produced the CD with trying to extort money from Hasan Ali! In its 15 page report the CID stated that Hasan Ali’s confession has been selectively edited. The CID had sent the CD to the forensic lab at Chandigarh. Its report said the audio-visual pieces of interrogation were not inter-linked, but joined together in sequence to appear as if they are part of continuous interrogation. Inter-linked or not, the forensic report does not deny that it was Hassan Ali himself speaking the “disjointed” narrative. CID investigations confirmed that one meeting did take place involving Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ahmed Patel at Juhu Centaur on March 15, 2008. But CID comforted itself with the fact it could not have discussed Gafoor’s appointment because by then Gafoor had already been appointed Mumbai Commissioner of Police. Never mind the Police Commissioner’s appointment, how is Hassan Ali’s proximity to Congress politicians including the political secretary of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, to be explained?
Circumstantial evidence reveals therefore that Hassan Ali, the nation’s biggest money launderer, is protected by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. And Hassan Ali has links with senior Congress politicians including Sonia Gandhi’s trusted political secretary, Ahmed Patel. During his interaction with Ali was Ahmed Patel representing himself or his boss, Sonia Gandhi? If he was representing himself why has Sonia Gandhi not sacked him? If he was representing the Congress President how does Sonia Gandhi explain her party’s links with the nation’s biggest money launderer who is being protected by the Finance Minister?

Connect the dots and the picture that emerges is not pretty. Either the Congress is so stupid that it deserves to be removed from power, or it is so corrupt that it deserves to be removed from power. Wittingly or otherwise the BJP until now has served only Hassan Ali’s interests. Publicizing the CD will act as a powerful disincentive for the government to act against Hasan Ali. By not pursuing the matter at the national level the BJP has failed to serve its own interests. Therefore the BJP is either so corrupt that it deserves to perpetually remain out of power. Or it is so stupid that it deserves to perpetually remain out of power.

Corruption has become so widespread and brazen that it is destroying the foundations of the Indian Republic. India can stand on the roof and watch its neighbour’s house in flames. Why doesn't it look below its feet to realize that its own house is burning?