Is the finance ministry soft-pedalling the 2G Probes?

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Photo: AP

Whistleblower complainant tells Supreme Court that many accused are being protected. Ashish Khetan reports

IN A new twist to the ongoing 2G saga, a few anonymous complainants claiming to be officers from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have written to the Supreme Court that the office of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has instructed ED Director AK Mathur to scuttle the investigation into the spectrum allocation scam.

The complainants have annexed copies of as many as 23 summons that the ED Delhi zonal office had issued to over two dozen suspects in the first week of January under the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, (PMLA) 2002. Only an officer who is part of the 2G scam investigation team could have had access to all these summons.

The complaint starts by saying that “We the officers of Delhi Zone of Enforcement Directorate most humbly bring to your kind notice that after directions from the Honourable Supreme Court, as many as 23 summons were issued on 6 January 2011 under the PMLA to various persons involved in the 2G scam for investigation. However, immediately after issuance of the said notices, strict instructions were issued by our director AK Mathur not to proceed further in the case.”

In the net CBI raids on the former telecom minister’s residence and that of his Chennai associates raised hackles

The complaint dated 7 February names a senior bureaucrat in Mukherjee’s office and alleges that this officer had specifically instructed Mathur to go slow against the three Jain brothers — Mahesh, Daulat and Rajesh — who are suspected hawala operators and are accused of transferring more than Rs. 2,000 crore of bribe money.

The Jains are accused of transferring the money to Chennai and countries like South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia on behalf of former telecom minister A Raja and other senior functionaries of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

The complaint also names corporate lobbyist Niira Radia’s sister Karuna Menon and former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Pradeep Baijal as being among the suspects against whom the agency has been instructed to softpedal the investigation. Besides, the complaint throws up the names of many hitherto unknown companies as suspected conduits through which either the paybacks were routed or they were themselves beneficiaries of the 2G scam.

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MISSED CALLS

The suspected individuals and entities who are yet to appear before the Enforcement Directorate despite summons:

Shivakamam Agency
Perambalur, Tamil Nadu

Kovai Shelters Promoters Pvt Ltd
Gandhipurma Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

Sally Thermoplastics Ltd
Sriperumbudur

Genex Exim Ventures Pvt Ltd
Chennai

Pradip Baijal
Former TRAI chairman

Wellcom Communications India Pvt Ltd
Chennai

Karuna Manon
Sister of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia

Aysha Real Estate Pvt Ltd
Chennai

Green House Promoters Pvt Ltd
Chennai

Shivakamam Tradings Pvt Ltd
Perambalur, Tamil Nadu

C Sathyanarayanan
Coimbatore-based aide of Raja

Dr Channappan Krishnamoorthy
Perambalur, Tamil Nadu

SV Thirumavalan
Chennai

Kadirkamam Estates Pvt Ltd
Trichy, Tamil Nadu

Sadhick Batcha
Chennai-based aide of Raja

Aryappa Enterprises
Kuniamuthur

A Ramachandaran
Chennai

K Sridhara
Ghaziabad

AK Srivastava
Former DoT official

Doulat Jain
Suspected Chennai-based hawala operator

Mahesh Jain
Suspected Delhi-based hawala operator

*The names in this list have been spelt as in the Summons

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A day after TEHELKA broke the story on its website on 7 March, the finance ministry issued a rebuttal. It said: “The allegation is totally baseless and without foundation, since this investigation is being done jointly by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate under the close and regular supervision of the Honourable Supreme Court. Status reports are also being filed in the case on a regular basis before the Supreme Court, which has generally expressed satisfaction about the line and pace of the investigation.”

While speaking to TEHELKA, ED Special Director Balesh Kumar claimed that there was no substance in the complaint. But interestingly, both the ED and the finance ministry chose to not address the specific points raised by the complainant.

The anonymous whistleblower has claimed that soon after these summons were issued, Mathur instructed the ED officers to not put the suspects through any investigation except cursory questioning.

A copy of the summons annexed shows that the three Jain brothers, Niira Radia’s sister Karuna and Radia’s close associate and Baijal were among over two dozen suspects who were asked to appear before the ED in the months of January and February.

Enforcement Director AK Mathur instructed officers to question suspects only cursorily

The complainant has further alleged that except for four suspects, none of the remaining 19 persons who were issued summons on 6 January had responded till 7 February — the day on which the complaint was drafted. The four who did turn up for questioning were not subjected to a rigorous interrogation and instead were allowed to leave after recording superficial statements, says the complaint.

It further says the dates for appearance for various persons were spread over from 17 January to 8 February this year. But except the following four persons, none appeared:

1. Sidhartha Behura, former telecom secretary, appeared on 18 January. He came to the office at 12.30 pm with his wife and was allowed to leave at 2.30 pm after giving a routine three-page statement.

2. Jegath Gaspar Raj, Catholic priest and founder of the NGO Tamil Maiyyam, appeared on 19 January at 12 noon. Nothing happened till 2.30 pm when a three-page statement was recorded. No fruitful investigation was done.

3. Akilan Ramanathan, a professor in Bharath University, reached the ED office at 11.30 am on 24 January and was allowed to leave at 2.30 pm after a very brief and routine statement.

4. A Kaliya Perumal, Raja’s brother, reached the office at 11.30 am and was similarly allowed to leave at 3.15 pm after a brief statement.

When contacted, a bureaucrat in the Registrar’s office of the SC told TEHELKA, “Any complaint received by the Supreme Court automatically becomes a part of the judicial files. The contesting parties have access to these judicial files. But, there is no procedure to confirm or deny the receipt of such complaints to the press.”

Well-known civil activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, on the other hand, has received a copy of the same anonymous complaint addressed to Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly — who are members of the two-judge Bench that has been monitoring the probe into the 2G scam.

It was only after Prashant Bhushan filed a PIL that the apex court began to monitor the probe

“I am in receipt of the complaint addressed to the Supreme Court. There is a ring of truth to this complaint as the author has given specific information and has also annexed 23 summons, which only an insider could have access to. I am going to raise this before the honourable judges on the next date of hearing,” said Bhushan.

It was only after Bhushan had filed a public interest litigation before the Supreme Court alleging that the government agencies were scuttling the 2G scam investigation, that the apex court started monitoring the probe. As a result of this, the investigation picked up pace.

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