Exposing Media, Exhuming Truth
The alleged ‘apology’ of LK Advani to Sonia Gandhi for the BJP Task Force on black money abroad saying that she held secret Swiss bank accounts indeed had stunned the nation. The leak shocked the BJP to grief, surprised the Congress to joy, and bewildered the media to splits. A plain reading of Advani’s letter shows that he has not regretted for the Task Force Report mentioning Sonia’s name at all. Yet, thanks to the Congress leak and media spin, the whole country believes he has. It was a personal and confidential reply to a personal and confidential letter of Sonia Gandhi, yes. Yet the word regret was a rare jackpot for the Congress not to exploit it and miss. The congress, the beneficiary of the jackpot, would have been foolish had it not reaped full benefit out of it.
Here is the story of the ‘regret’. The Task Force of the BJP consisting of four specialists Ajit Doval, as security expert, Prof Vaidyanathan as financial expert, Mahesh Jethmalani, as senior lawyer and myself as experienced chartered accountant had submitted a meticulous Report, running to almost 100 pages, on the black money stashed away abroad. Citing two unbiased sources, the Task Force Report had said that Sonia Gandhi family reportedly held huge funds in Swiss banks. This should have made big national news; but it did not. Why? Read on.
The Delhi media in strength had attended the release of the Task Force Report by the tall leaders of the BJP and NDA on February 1; but it hardly reported either news or the contents of the Report. That the Task Force had mentioned the name of Sonia Gandhi was presumed to be the reason for the self-censorship of the Delhi media. But, ironically, what the release the Task Force report could not achieve, the leak of the ‘apology’ letter seems to be achieving. The clever leak of Advani’s letter, intended to abort any discussion on Sonia Gandhi family’s alleged Swiss bank accounts, has inevitably drawn her into it. Because, as the Delhi media discusses what the ‘apology’ is for, it is forced to refer to the Swiss of Sonia Gandhi family mentioned in the Task Force report.
The Task Force Report cited two independent, credible sources for the alleged secret Swiss accounts and other secret funds of the Sonia Gandhi family. The first was an exposure in the most popular news magazine of Switzerland, Schweizer Illustrierte [11.11.1991]. The Swiss magazine had alleged that some 14 leaders of third world countries had stashed away their bribes in Swiss banks; the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with $2.2 billions in secret accounts was one of them. The next was a research book, based on the declassified KGB documents, written by Dr Yuvegina Albats, a Russian journalist. The KGB documents cited by Dr Albats said that, in the year 1985, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, he had expressed gratefulness to the KGB for financial favours shown to the Gandhi family. The Task Force Report had also pointed out that AG Noorani, well-known columnist first wrote about these exposes in The Statesman newspaper in 1988; later, Dr Subramanian Swamy put out the photo copies of the Swiss magazine and the extracts of Dr Albats book in the Janata Party website in and from 2001; subsequently, well-known columnist Rajinder Puri wrote about Dr Albats’ expose in his column in 2005; afterwards, I wrote about it in detail in the year 2009 and again in January this year in the New Indian Express; finally Ram Jethmalani wrote on it in India Today. The Task Force pointed out that the Gandhi family did not contest nor dare sue any of the writers or publishers in or outside India. It had also contrasted their silence with how Morarji Desai, when he was 87, filed a $50 million damages suit in US when Seymour Hersh wrote in his book that Desai was a CIA agent, disproved the charge and saved his and the nation’s honour. The Task Force asked why the Gandhi family did not emulate Desai to establish the honour of Rajiv Gandhi and the nation. The Task Force had also pointed out that to make the matters worse, when an advertisement containing the alleged Swiss accounts in Sonia familiy name was issued in New York Times issued by some NRIs at the time of Sonia Gandhi’s visit to US in 2008, Indian National Overseas Congress sued for $100 millions in damages to defend the honour of Sonia Gandhi but did not contest the allegation about Swiss money; and worse still, it also withdrew the suit!
ADVANI SONIA PARTNERSHIP REVEALED!
Politicians can sometimes be unbelievably silly. And the silliest thought they often indulge in is to assume that the public is as silly as they are. Mr LK Advani and Mrs Sonia Gandhi have just exhibited this trait. Mr Advani echoing his party leading its spurious cosmetic campaign against black money abroad had charged Mrs Gandhi for having a foreign bank account. Now Mr Advani has publicly retracted his charge. He has done this on account of a private letter written to him by Mrs Gandhi assuring him that she had no foreign bank account. That convinced Mr Advani about his error and he has apologized. What touching faith between the two most senior leaders respectively of the Congress and the BJP. Is this the prelude to an openly declared partnership between them? One hopes so. The quicker the charade of phony opposition ends the better!
On August 15, 2006 it was reported in these columns: “Dr Yevgeniya Albats is a Soviet journalist who was appointed as member of the official KGB Commission set up by President Yeltsin in 1991. She had full access to secret files of the KGB. She authored a book, The State within a State: KGB and Its Hold on Russia. Dr Albats disclosed in her book that KGB chief Victor Chebrikov in December 1985 had sought in writing from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), ‘authorization to make payments in US dollars to the family members of Mr Rajiv Gandhi, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ms Paola Maino, mother of Sonia Gandhi’. CPSU payments were authorized by a resolution, CPSU/CC/No 11228/3 dated December 20, 1985; and endorsed by the USSR Council of Ministers in Directive No. 2633/Rs dated December 12, 1985. These payments had been coming since 1971, as payments received by Sonia Gandhi’s family, and ‘have been audited in CPSU/CC resolution No. 11187/22 OP dated October 12, 1984’.”
“In 1992 the media confronted the Russian government with the Albats disclosure. The Russian government confirmed the veracity of the disclosure and defended it as necessary for ‘Soviet ideological interest’. The Hindu of July 4, 1992 carried this report. In November 1991 the respected Swiss magazine, Schweitzer Illustrate, published a report alleging that Rajiv Gandhi had 2.5 billion Swiss francs, equivalent roughly to two billion US dollars, in numbered Swiss bank accounts.”
On November 18, 2006 it was again written in these columns: “Until now there has been only deafening silence from Mrs Gandhi and the Congress party. If the Albats allegation published in a reputed research book is false, Mrs Sonia Gandhi should promptly deny it. Otherwise, her silence could be perceived as assent.”
For the last four years Mrs Gandhi, the Congress Party and the UPA government have remained silent. No court case for libel and defamation has been entered against either the Swiss newspaper or Yevegenia Albats who is a renowned journalist and former official member of the Soviet government’s KGB Commission. The Internet and the international media are full of Sonia Gandhi’s alleged foreign bank account. The world is talking about the alleged corruption of India’s top leader. And this finally has been countered by a private letter written by Sonia Gandhi to LK Advani! And our most experienced and senior opposition leader has bought this as a satisfactory explanation! Should one laugh or cry?
By Rajinder Puri
Why did the Task Force mention the Swiss and Russian media reports on Sonia family’s hidden wealth abroad? It was but a small part of the Task Force Report. It was indicated as one of the circumstances the other two being the Quattrocchi and Hasan Ali cases for the UPA government’s inaction in vigorously pursuing the hidden Indian wealth abroad. The Task Force had brought out the successful examples of pursuit of their hidden wealth abroad by other countries and showed India as a slow-moving and non-moving contrast. The Task Force Report had said because of the alleged involvement of Sonia family there is a public apprehension that this government is not acting. This is in the context of the Task Force discourse on why India is not acting.
After the Task Force report was released, on 15.2.2011, Sonia Gandhi wrote a secret, not open, letter to Advani expressing her disappointment at a person of his stature releasing the Task Force Report of the BJP endorsing what she called as “scurrilous allegations” against her family, which she had treated with “contempt”. The exposes Schweizer Illustrierte and Dr Albats are scurrilous? On 16.2.2011, expressing happiness at her denial of the allegations, Advani said that had she denied it earlier the Task Force would have factored it in its Report. He concluded, “Even so, I deeply regret the distress caused to you”, which made the Congress to gloat over. Explicitly, it is no regret for the Report mentioning her family’s alleged Swiss accounts. A dignified regret for the personal distress has been turned into a political apology.
The Task Force has asserted that it is that author of the Report. The BJP or NDA could accept or reject its report. But, they considered the report, accepted and released it. The Task Force members have reiterated that they stand by every word of their Report including about alleged secret funds of the Sonia Gandhi family based on the sources cited. The Task Force is an independent body of domain specialists. It has castigated all political parties and all political leaders as lacking in credibility, thus not sparing the BJP, which had sought its views. The leak has only helped to confirm the independence of the Task Force. And more, it has also helped to lift the self-censorship of the Delhi media and open the alleged Sonia Gandhi family Swiss accounts for public debate.
QED: The so-called apology has exposed the media silence on Task Force Report and exhumed the Task Force Report.
By S Gurumurthy
Abhishek please make this article in BOX
Indian black wealth abroad $500 billions, says Global Financial Integrity
The Global financial Integrity a Non-profit research organization working in the area of Tax Havens has estimated for India that the present value of illegal financial flows held abroad is $500 Billions. This means that almost three-quarters of the illicit assets comprising India’s underground economy which has been estimated to account for 50 per cent of India’s GDP (approximately $640 billion at the end of 2008) ends up outside of the country. This seems to have settled the issue about the volume of the Indian black wealth abroad.
‘Bribes, corruption, kickbacks, criminal activities and tax evasion’
And what is the kind of money, which the GFI says has been hoarded abroad by Indians? This is what the GFI says about the character of the loot. “From 1948 through 2008, India lost a total of US $213 billion in illicit financial flows (or illegal capital flight)” through “tax evasion, corruption, bribery and kickbacks, andcriminal activities”. Tax evasion is only one aspect of the illicit monies Indian nationals and corporates have hoarded abroad. There appears to be more intimate link between monies stashed away abroad and bribes, corruption, kickbacks and criminal activities. Still the government of India seems to be keen to treat the issue as a tax evasion issue only.
Bribes as important source of Indian black monies stashed abroad
There are various categories of culprits. Some are traditional business leaders who have been accumulating money since the 50s; some are new rich entrepreneurs and politicians and bureaucrats who influence decision making for large global purchases. The third category is the money launderers for nefarious purposes including financing of terrorism.
Shockingly India has not ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption even now
India and Switzerland are signatories to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Yet India has not ratified the UN Convention till today. This would have enabled India to seek the co-operation of world nations including Switzerland to tackle corruption at all levels. According to global anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, India should endorse the United Nations Convention Against Corruption for the recovery of India’s wealth, which has be hoarded in foreign banks.
The UN Convention helps the country, which seeks to recover the assets stashed away. This is the greatest achievement of the Convention. This single act shows that the Government of India is not keen on securing global co-operation to tackle corruption in India, which would mean tracking and bringing back corrupt funds stashed away abroad.
The Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty with Switzerland: an impotent instrument
The DTA Treaty is not an effective mechanism to tackle the problem of money laundering. The Swiss government for instance cannot ask the Swiss banks to disclose any name under the Swiss law. So the so-called Double Taxation Treaty with Switzerland is no more than a PR exercise. That will yield practically nothing. And India is only thinking of even the watered down treaty to “prospective” transactions, which means that the past frauds, crimes, kickbacks, bribes and corruption are to be glossed over!
Terrorism and secret money
To recall, as early as 2007 the concern expressed by our own National Security Advisor—Mr MK Narayanan—regarding possibility of terror funds coming through financial markets [See his speech “Link between world of finance and terrorism”: at Munich Security Conference on 11.02.2007).
The $8 billion Hasan Ali hawala the smocking gun
The facts that have emerged in the Hasan Ali case clearly lead to the disconcerting inferences that ruling party leaders were involved in Havala and stashing away national wealth illegally abroad; that there was undeniable nexus between politicians and criminal world; that the probe was derailed, stymied and rendered meaningless by delay and prevarication thanks to the involvement of the ruling party leaders; that the present government has no interest in recovering back the national wealth stashed abroad; that on the contrary, it is clearly interested in not exposing those who had stashed their wealth abroad.
- a) Ali began to be involved in Havala business in billions in 1990s;
- b) Ali was involved with Adnan Khassogi, the international arms dealer, who was found in the probe into the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 to have supplied to arms to LTTE, in business and finance from 1982;
- c) He was involved with politicians, particularly the ruling Congress Party leaders;
- d) He had respectable local associates to front for him;
- e) He, who had nothing twenty years back, had billions in his and his associates’ account by end 2006;
- f) The probe into him was delayed and rendered directionless and almost purposeless, which indicated that the government was keen, even desperate, to bury the Ali case as detailed herein later;
- g) The Solicitor General of India has in an extraordinary step written to the Government of India that the Ali case must be investigated from national security angle also, which he could not have done without some critical material that must have been brought to his attention;
- h) Yet, the attitude of the government to Ali probe is a clear testimony to the fact that the government, far from pursuing and bringing out the national wealth stashed away abroad, is aiding and collaborating with the buccaneers who have criminally misappropriated the national wealth.
The shocking details of the Ali probe tumbled into the public domain through the media obviously because as the officials, who were investigating the case found that the political establishment was not keen to pursue the case, began to leak out the details. Whatever information the public has today is not through any detail given out by the government to Parliament or to the public. The media reports, sourced in the details leaked out to the media by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department are the only information available to the people. Yet the details which have appeared in the last four years, when seen collectively, shows a shocking fraud on the people of India by the ruling establishment which has clearly subverted the Ali money laundering probe involving over $8 billions.
- Hasan Ali’s bank balances grew from $1.5 million in 1982 to $8 billion in 2006
- A more disturbing aspect is Ali’s deep involvement with transactions in billions with Adnan Khassogi, the infamous international arms dealer whose name figured in the assassination case of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 as an arms supplier to the LTTE, which masterminded the killing of Rajiv Gandhi.
- Ali received $300 millions from Khassogi as “Funds from Weapons Sale”, which was frozen by the Swiss Government, but Ali managed the Swiss government later.
- Ali associate had confessed to involvement of Congress leaders
- ED regarded Ali’s illegimate funds as linked to terror, organized crime, gun-running and bribes; why anti-terror law was not invoked? The ED show cause notice has stated: “It is suspected that the accounts with such huge deposits of money originating from various international destinations are proceeds of heinous crimes such as terrorism, arms trade, gun-running, corruption and organized forgery, fraud and others.” These are grounds fit for action under the anti terror law of India in force then, the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act 2004 [which had replaced the Prevention Of Terrorism Act]. Under that law, the Ali funds could have been frozen as “proceeds of terrorism” and confiscated under section 24 of the law and pending the due legal process, by registering an FIR under the law, the Swiss government could have been requested to freeze the Ali accounts.
- Investigate Ali from National Security angle, tells Additional Solicitor General to Finance Minister;
- The way Ali case was handled showed that ruling party bigwigs were involved with him;
- An inevitable question has arisen as to whether Ali fronting for a leading politician? The media has recently reported, “Investigators are also trying to ascertain the real beneficiary behind Hasan Ali’s spectacular wealth. Investigators say funds might have been amassed from defence deals and Hasan Ali could be a front for a politician;
- ED had proposed to arrest Ali in December 2008; no arrest till now
- The government had made a Collusive request to the Swiss authorities for assistance, which has bounced back
- The Hasan Ali’s case the smoking gun
An irrefutable proof of a secret meeting of the Maharashtra Government and the Political Adviser to the President of the Congress Party Smt Sonia Gandhi with Hasan Ali has been revealed by one of the members of the Task Force, Shri Mahesh Jethmalani, on 25 January 2011 in the debate in the Times Now TV Channel moderated by Shri Arnab Goswami on Black Monies stashed overseas. In his sensational revelation Shri Mahesh Jethmalani said that that the Crime Branch of Mumbai Police in Mumbai has a video recording of the secret meeting between Hasan Ali, who was absconding in the Enforcement Case of $8 billion against him, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh and the Political Advisor to the Congress Party President Shri Ahmed Patel, and Shri Ghafoor Ahmed Khan, who was later appointed as the Police Commissioner of Mumbai at Hotel Centaur [now known as Tulip] in Mumbai on 8.11.2008 Shri Mahesh Jethmalani has made available a copy of the CD of this audio-video with the transcript of the conversation among the four persons [in which the decision to appoint Shri Gaffoor as the Commissioner of Mumbai Police] to the Task Force. The transcript of the answers given by Hasan Ali to the Police, taken from the Video available with Shri Mahesh Jethmalani, one of the members of the Task Force:
Bofors pay off to Quattrocchi and his links with the family of the President of the Congress Party
Despite all the efforts to bury the Bofors pay off case, it refuses to die. The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal decision on Win Chaddha’s tax issues has brought the issue alive back to the public domain. Shockingly the Tribunal decision came the very day the CBI had moved the CBI court for closing the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi. Some recall of the Quattrocchi part of the Bofors pay off case is necessary to know how its continuation impacts on the attitude of the government of India to the illegal monies of Indians stashed away abroad.
The alleged secret Swiss accounts of the family of a former Prime minister of India
It is a matter of concern that there have been serious and persistent allegations in the media in and outside India about alleged secret Swiss accounts held by the family of a former Prime Minister of, which have not been even formally denied by any one from the family. Because of that, there is an increasing apprehension in the public mind that it is due to the involvement of leaders close to the UPA and its component ruling parties that the UPA government and therefore India remain the only exception to the global pursuit of illegal monies abroad. The apprehension is that the Indian government is not taking the aggressive measures in that direction unlike the other countries as explained here in this report.
Moral and ethical response needed from the political class
The Task Force therefore suggests that the political class must set an example. Leaders and office bearers of political parties, ministers and Members of Parliament must declare that they or their families have either no wealth abroad, or if they have they must explain how they had acquired it. In addition they must give letters to the government stating that they authorize the government to ask from any government or bank in the world the details of any money held by them or by their sons and daughters.
(Excerpts from the Task Force Report)