Sets of documents, allegedly recovered during raids by the Income Tax Department and the CBI from the premises of two major industrial houses, detail massive payouts to prominent politicians, according to a complaint filed by advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan with the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
Confirming that he has made such a complaint, Mr. Bhushan told The Hindu that he would soon move the Supreme Court on the issue. In his complaint filed before the CBDT chairperson on October 25, Mr. Bhushan says, “Important evidence of corruption/bribery of important public functionaries [including Chief Ministers] by the business groups which was gathered in the raid on Sahara group by the Income Tax Department and in the raid on Birla group by the CBI, was not investigated and was brushed under the carpet.”
Sahara papers Documents allegedly recovered from the Sahara premises during a raid on November 22, 2014 by the Income Tax Department show payments to several politicians, including some Chief Ministers and MPs from various political parties, running into crores, the complaint has alleged.
Asked about the authenticity of the documents, Mr. Bhushan said they were signed by an income tax officer, two witnesses and a Sahara employee, and contain details of crores of rupees allegedly paid to several politicians. Some of the documents are excel sheets, while the others are handwritten or plain page printouts. “The log suggests that cash has been apparently transferred to several important public figures, including top political leaders and offices of the Chief Ministers of various States,” the lawyer said.
“It is clear that this document showed bribery of several influential persons by the Sahara group and it ought to have been shared by the IT department with the CBI & SIT on black money, since the matter was not limited to income tax violations but included bribery, corruption and black money. The persons named in the diary who had apparently received ought to have been raided and investigated for disproportionate assets, but the same was not done. This constitutes a serious lapse on the part of the IT department,” Mr. Bhushan says in his complaint.
Annexures to Mr. Bhushan’s complaint reveal that in June this year, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani accessed the Sahara documents. On June 28, 2016 Mr. Jethmalani has written to Delhi minister Satyendra Jain, requesting for forensic examination of the Sahara papers. “I am enclosing herewith, in a sealed cover, two documents bearing signatures purportedly belonging to an officer, Ankita Pandey. It may kindly be examined whether the signatures match,” Mr. Jethmalani wrote, enclosing an office order signed by Pandey, along with the seized Sahara papers. Ms. Pandey is the Income Tax officer whose signature is on the seized Sahara papers.
In a report on July 1, Anurag Sharma, Assistant Director (documents) of the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, said: “On intense comparison of red enclosed signatures stamped and marked X1 & X2 (only reproduction copies made available by the forwarding authority), some similarities are observed in the formation of characters between the two signatures which collectively indicates that these two signatures stamped and marked X1 & X2 appear to be written by one and the same person.”
The Birla Papers
During investigation into coal block allocations to Aditya Birla group’s Hindalco Industries, the CBI had conducted simultaneous raids on its premises in New Delhi, Mumbai, Secunderabad and Bhubaneshwar on October 15, 2013.
“The documents seized by the CBI in its search operation in Mumbai reportedly revealed massive bribery of politicians and officials of various ministries by the Aditya Birla group over several years. The simultaneous search operation conducted on 15.10.2013 by the CBI at Aditya Birla group’s office at Parliament Street, New Delhi, reportedly led to the recovery of a huge stash of unaccounted for cash of Rs 25 crore besides incriminating documents,” Mr. Bhushan said in his complaint.
“Instead of examining the contents of the highly incriminating documents, the CBI simply transferred all the documents to Income Tax Department, though the documents showed corruption, bribery, black money, disproportionate assets, and also income tax violations,” the complaint states.
The documents also show a payment of Rs 7.08 crore during January 9, 2012 to February 2, 2012 for “Project J- Environment & Forest.” Mr. Bhushan says this was the time when allegations of corruption had emerged in environment clearances being issued by the UPA government.
From the laptop of Aditya Birla Group Executive President Subhendu Amitabh, the raiding party recovered details of some financial transactions. A particular email of November 16, 2012 reports an alleged payment of Rs 25 crore to an entity referred to as a CM, with Rs 12 crore already delivered, according to the complaint. When Mr. Amitabh was asked about it, the documents suggest he told IT sleuths: “These were purely personal notes” and the initials that denoted the particular political leader’s official position as “CM” of a State was actually meant to represent a State PSU.
However, an appraisal report of the Income Tax department on February 27, 2014 that Mr. Bhushan has provided says that Mr. Amitabh’s “evasive replies and unsubstantiated claims by him makes it imperative to scrutinise the data available in seized documents including the laptop and hard disc and determine the quantum of income concealed.”
“Also, it is learnt that both Sahara group and Birla group have approached the Settlement Commission of Income Tax to settle and bury the whole issue. This must not be allowed to (be) done at any cost since that may allow important evidence of serious corruption of important public functionaries would be buried and those guilty of bribery and corruption would go scot-free,” Mr. Bhushan writes in his complaint.