Many Gandhis on 'black money' list, but it's not them
Is the Dirty Tricks Department in the government sending the BJP a message to back off from the anti-corruption campaign?
Baba Ramdev wants the government to bring back the black money stashed abroad. He was sent packing after midnight last Saturday-Sunday. Anna Hazare is starving himself in stages to get the Jan Lokpal Bill legislated in order to tackle corruption in high places. Congress spokesmen have accused him of harbouring "fascist" tendencies.
The Supreme Court has been asking the UPA government to disclose the names of those already known to the tax authorities for depositing their wealth in tax havens like Liechstenstein. The government demurred, citing non-disclosure agreements with the Germans.
The BJP has been talking endlessly about the same issue, putting the government on the backfoot. The Congress has counter-attacked, claiming it has done more to get black money back than anyone else in the past.
And lo, behold, overnight The Indian Express has leaked a list of 18 names with the amount of money stashed abroad and the tax penalties imposed. Significantly, most of the names on the list are Gujaratis, with some Marwari businessmen also making it. There are no big names, only minnows from the Indian business world. The Gandhis - not the ones you are thinking of - are the most prominent names on the list.
Just coincidence? Makes one wonder, since most of the names were disclosed months ago by Tehelka?
The UPA government has been extremely reluctant to track down black money in overseas accounts. Even when overseas governments offered to share details of names they had come across of Indian-origin account holders in tax havens abroad, it hasn't responded with alacrity.
Yet, in the list of names of alleged account holders in a Liechtenstein-based bank, which government agencies have been leaking to media outlets from time to time, the names of a few Gujarati businessmen and their families find prominent and repeated mention.
Thursday's edition of The Indian Express lists the names of 18 individuals with accounts in LGT Bank in Liechtenstein, the amounts they have allegedly stashed away, and the tax penalty levied on them.
These 18 names are part of a larger list of 26 Indian names that figured on a rollcall of 1,400 account holders that a former LGT Bank employee gave to German tax authorities in 2008. (A backgrounder to that case can be had here.)
Of the 26 Indian names, five were found to be non-resident Indians, who were therefore considered outside the purview of prosecution. Of the remaining 21, The Indian Express reports, prosecution could be launched only against 18. (It's not immediately clear why the three others could not be prosecuted.)
Many of these names have been in the public domain for months, but curiously, given all the selective leaks that government agencies have resorted to, there are minor mismatches between the various lists.
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The Indian Express report, for instance, lists the following 18 names of account-holders in LGT Bank against whom prosecution has been launched.
• Arun Kochar, Delhi; investment banker, now residing in the US
• Late KM Mammen Mappillai, Chennai (former CMD of MRF)
• Harshad Ramniklal Mehta, Mumbai, chairman Rosy Blue (diamond merchant)
• Arun Ramniklal Mehta, Mumbai, co-founder, Rosy Blue
• Manoj Kumar Dhupelia, Kolkata; stock broker; his wife Rupal Dhupelia,; son Mohan Manoj Dhupelia; Ambrish Dhupelia and Bhavya Manoj Dhupelia of Mumbai, unspecified relatives of MK Dhupelia.
• Hasmukh Gandhi, Mumbai, MD of Millennium Herbal Care Ltd; his wife Madhu Hasmukh Gandhi; son Chintan Gandhi; late son Nirav Gandhi.
• Chandrakant Gandhi, Kolkata, CMD of Dolphin Laboratories; his wife Dhanlaxmi Gandhi; their sons Rajesh Gandhi and Viraj Gandhi.
• Ashok Jaipuria, Delhi, chairman of Cosmo Ferrites
The Express report notes that between them, the 18 persons had stashed away Rs 39.66 crore between 2002 and 2004 in trusts with the LGT Bank.
But an earlier list, released by Tehelka in February 2011, had the following names.
Manoj Dhupelia; Rupal Dhupelia; Mohan Dhupelia; Hasmukh Gandhi; Chintan Gandhi; Dilip Mehta; Arun Mehta; Arun Kochar; Gunwanti Mehta; Rajnikant Mehta; Prabodh Mehta; Ashok Jaipuria; Raj Foundation; Urvashi Foundation; Ambrunova Trust
In other words, of the names on the list released by Tehelka, the following do not figure in the list released by Indian Express: Dilip Mehta; Gunwanti Mehta; Rajnikant Mehta; Prabodh Mehta; Raj Foundation; Urvashi Foundation; Ambrunova Trust
In their place, a few other names have been added to the list of names in theIndian Express.
A third list, released by CNN-IBN, also in February 2011, had details of four trusts: Ambrunova Trust, Marline Management SA, Marnichi Trust and Socalo Stiftung - and 13 trustee beneficiaries: Hasmukh Gandhi, Ishwerlal Gandhi, Madhu Gandhi, Chintan Gandhi, Mirav Gandhi, Manoj Dhupelia, Rupal Dhupelia, Mohan Dhupelia, Chintan Gandhi, Dilip Mehta, Arun Mehta, Arun Kochar, Gunwanti Mehta, Rajnikant Mehta, Prabodh Mehta and Ashok Jaipuria.
Despite all these mismatches, the one distinguishing factor that links these various lists is the preponderance of Gujarati names.
Which leads one to speculate whether the Dirty Tricks Department in the government is sending a veiled message to the BJP to back off from the anti-corruption campaign - or face taint by spurious association.
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