New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) affidavit in the Supreme Court, alleging Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has sought to conceal actual sources of her wealth by falsely claiming these were donations from people, stems from investigations concluding the alleged donors didn’t have the necessary wealth in the first place.
The affidavit, which the Supreme Court will take up on 28 July, carries a detailed account of the assets owned by the chief minister and her immediate family as on 18 September 2003.
Daggers drawn: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati at a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.
“It has been found that in order to camouflage the source of funds for acquiring immovable and movable assets, 307 donations/gifts worth Rs13,18,73,188.00 (Rs13.18 crore) have been shown to have been received by Ms. Mayawati and her family members from more than 130 donors”, the CBI affidavit says.
The affidavit was filed following a writ petition filed by Mayawati on 5 May challenging the so-called first information report, or FIR, that was filed after an examination of the assets of the chief minister.
The FIR, filed in October 2003, is a step preceding the filing of a chargesheet.
The investigation was initiated after the apex court, while hearing the so-called Taj Corridor case, asked the CBI to investigate the assets of people associated with the project, including Mayawati.
That case had been filed after allegations of wrongdoing in the construction of the Rs175 crore corridor connecting the Taj Mahal with four other monuments — Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daulah’s tomb, Chini-ka-Roja and Rambagh.
However, the CBI could not proceed as Uttar Pradesh governor T.V. Rajeswar refused to approve prosecution in June 2007. Mayawati, who is also the head of the Bahujan Samaj Party, or BSP, that came to power in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in May 2007, has denied the charges and claimed that these were politically motivated.
The CBI dismissed allegations that the affidavit was politically motivated. “Different innuendos and meanings have been attributed to the filing of this counter-affidavit at this junction. It is clarified that it has been filed in compliance with the specific direction given by the apex court,” a CBI spokesperson said.
In its affidavit, CBI has stated that it had traced and examined 30 donors. “These donors have stated that they do not have the means and resources to gift/donate such huge amounts as reflected by the donees concerned in their income tax returns,” it says.
The CBI said that an earlier examination of some of the donors by the income tax department had also yielded a similar response. The income tax department was told by 12 donors that their bank accounts were actually opened and operated by an individual based in New Delhi and that they were unaware of the transactions in those accounts.
In the affidavit, the CBI also highlighted the statements made by three sisters — Gurcharan Kaur, Kulwant Kaur and Swaran Kaur to the income tax department.
Mayawati had claimed that the trio had each donated Rs23.3 lakh through cheque transfers in November and December 2001. However, income tax investigations showed that the addresses furnished by the three when opening the bank accounts, were false. These bank accounts were opened at a Canara Bank branch in New Delhi by an employee of the bank allegedly at the behest of Mayawati’s brother, Raj Kumar, the CBI alleged.
The three sisters had claimed that their father, Hari Singh, had given them funds to donate to Mayawati. The affidavit says that Singh turned out to be a “humble artisan with no capacity to save money. Even the ladies did not have adequate income from where they could have spared any amount for making gifts.”
Mint could not independently ascertain who the three sisters or Singh were, or their role in the saga beyond what the CBI has claimed in its affidavit. Mint also could not independently confirm the involvement of Kumar as noted in the affidavit.
Maywati, however denied the CBI claims and maintained that the income tax department had cleared her name after they assessed that the donations or gifts were genuine and the donors had valid sources of income. “This matter was also heard at the I-T (income tax appellate) tribunal and here they said that the gifts were genuine,” she added.
The I-T tribunal had held that gifts in cash totalling Rs12 lakh and property worth Rs62 lakh given to Mayawati by BSP supporters were not taxable. The case relates to the assessment year 2003-04.
The Centre had in April filed a challenge to this verdict in the Delhi high court.
According to Joginder Singh, former director of CBI, the modus operandi of opening bank accounts in the name of poor, illiterate people had been used by politicians in the past.
As expected, Mayawati has taken action. Singling out CBI director Vijay Shankar, while addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday, she said that filing the affidavit soon after her party’s withdrawal of support to the Centre and before the trust vote, brings the action of the premier investigative agency under the “needle of suspicion”.
The CBI’s latest move has acquired a political hue because the Samajwadi Party, or SP, the main opposition party in UP that was routed by Mayawati in the last elections, recently decided to support the Congress-led UPA at the centre, even as Mayawati severed her party’s association with the UPA. The SP’s support to the UPA government is critical, ahead of a proposed trust vote in Parliament on 22 July.
“It is not the style of Congress party to pressurize anyone using the CBI,” All India Congress Committee general secretary Digvijay Singh told reporters, adding that the independence of the investigating agency has been known even in the Jain Hawala case.
For excerpts from a 2003 CBI Supplemetary report on the Taj Corridor project, that was annexed to the CBI affidavit that gives brief details of the assets belonging to Mayawati and her relatives, click in the following links:
Krishnamurthy Ramasubbu and PTI contributed to this story.