Neil Terrance Haslam, a self-proclaimed whistle-blower and black-money informer, is seen as a BJP stooge by many within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). But whoever he is perceived to be, the recent notice issued by the Income Tax Department to AAP for allegedly accepting donations through the hawala route has brought him back into the limelight. For he has been the one harping about the AAP-shell company nexus for the last three years in the media.
In February 2015, Haslam alleged that AAP had accepted money through questionable means. Last year, he claimed that more than Rs 16 crore received by the party as donations had not been declared.
When Kapil Mishra, a former minister in the AAP-led Delhi government, alleged that AAP had links with hawala operators in May this year, Haslam was seen standing beside him. In fact, it was Haslam who had claimed earlier that AAP had received four cheques amounting Rs 50 lakhs each from four shell companies.
Haslam also alleged that four AAP MLAs were directly connected with these hawala companies. He spoke to Firstpost after the I-T notice was served to AAP for the alleged tax evasion, amounting to Rs 30 crore. Edited excerpts follow:
You claimed that AAP received donations from shell companies. But the party deflected the allegation, stating that more than 80 percent of donations received by BJP and more than 70 percent by Congress were from unknown sources. In such a situation, how do you justify going after a single party when it is seen as a relatively small fish?
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in one of its reports had mentioned that BJP and Congress had 'unknown sources' of income. The ADR defines such unknown sources as those that contribute money through cash donations received through 'sale of coupons', 'relief fund', 'miscellaneous income', 'voluntary contributions', 'contribution from meetings/morchas' etc.
The details of donors of such voluntary contributions are not available in the public domain as each of these payments is below Rs 20,000 and hence political parties are not required to declare the names of donors of these sums as per the rules and regulation of the Election Commission. There is no denying the fact these 'unknown sources' are seen as a hole in the process of electoral reforms. But AAP was formed to clean up the system. Why is it now finding role models in parties which it had been slamming?
As a whistleblower, even I would like to inquire into the donation sources of other parties. If AAP has information about other parties receiving funds from dubious sources then it should put it up in the public domain to enable an investigation. Instead of doing that, the AAP conjures a conspiracy theory whenever the integrity of its own leaders is in question. The party should know that it cannot get away with its conspiracy theories every time. The I-T department has a strong case against it this time around.
Mayank Gandhi, who parted ways with AAP, said that he observed financial mismanagement during the heydays of the party. Did you observe any such anomaly during the early days of AAP?
I wouldn't like to comment on what Mayank had observed, however, he is not the only one to observe such acts of financial mismanagement in AAP. But I think he should have brought this up at that point in time.
From the very initial days of AAP, we observed anomalies such as different donations against the same receipt number. The party also did not mention a number of donations in its report to the Election Commission in 2012-13. It soon corrected the report. At that time, we took them to be clerical mistakes as the amounts of the donations were also very small.
Were these anomalies due to carelessness or accommodating corruption? Manish Sisodiya in a press conference had claimed that the discrepancies were just mistakes made while putting the data on the website.
Arvind Kejriwal was warned by his own folk not to take the four cheques of 50 lakhs each since they were issued by dubious companies. But he said that he didn’t care. He declared the donations on AAP's website just to test the waters. He waited for four months to see whether anyone raised an issue.
Since no one pointed the issue at that point in time, he got the cheques cleared. The website showed 5 April, 2014, around 12:00 AM as the clearing date, but actually, the cheques were cleared in June or July. Was it not a well thought out move to accept donations from shell companies? How can they now claim that it was only a clerical mistake? Who will believe them?
It is a common reaction on the part of the AAP to play innocent when exposed. When Kejriwal was asked about these payments he, at first, said that he had no information as to where the money came from. He also said that he will conduct an investigation.
I brought forth evidence that four AAP MLAs were involved with these companies. What action has he taken against these MLAs? Rather the party now has removed the donation list from the website. Kejriwal is now claiming that the I-T department is harassing his donors. He should know that the I-T department does not follow AAP's website but bank accounts. His actions prove that he is accommodative of corruption.
How does dubious funding affect governance?
Anything dubious is unhealthy not just for the government but for the free functioning of the democratic system. When you compromise with black money, the corrupt elements tend to dictate your terms. This has a direct and adverse impact on governance. I have shown that a number of AAP MLAs are linked to the dubious companies which donated money to AAP. There is every possibility that these MLAs got party nominations on the condition of these donations. How can one trust that such representatives will deliver good governance?
You are often called a BJP stooge by many in the AAP…
Being called a BJP stooge is nothing new to me. Meeting government officials, the finance minister, the Central Board of Direct Taxes chairman or even the prime minister doesn't make anyone a stooge. Moreover, levelling allegation against me does not change the fact that AAP stands nowhere near what it was created for.
You claim to be a whistle-blower. But why are your enquires only limited to AAP?
My vote, my voice, my love, my money, my time went in support of the Aam Aadmi Party. I left my job as an IT professional to work as a volunteer for AAP after Kejriwal resigned from the post of chief minister after remaining in power for 49 days. My family and I toiled by the day and through the night to campaign for the party. Though I am no longer with AAP, I take it as my duty to clean its backyard before pointing fingers at others. I am also enquiring about the dubious transactions of other parties. I hope to come up with the data on corruption related to other parties as well.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Dec 15, 2017 17:05:51 IST