On the 20 May 2011 rally in Varanasi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said, “No government has acted so sternly against corruption like the UPA government. Those who attack us over corruption, can’t they see corruption within?” (1) Exactly a month previously, on April 19, in a letter to Anna Hazare, she wrote, “I believe there is an urgent necessity to combat graft and corruption. You should have no doubt of my commitment in the fight for probity in public life.” (2) And four months prior to that, on 18 December 2010, at the Congress Plenary session, she insisted, “There should be no tolerance to corruption. There is no doubt that corruption at all levels has become a disease. The nation is paying a heavy price for it.” (3)
Sonia uttered these words even as she was heading, de facto, India’s most corrupt regime, for which the nation has been paying a heavy price. She claimed she had realised the urgent necessity to combat graft and corruption and was committed to probity in public life.
Is it so? Has she really realized the urgent need to combat graft and corruption, or shown commitment for probity in public life? The answer is obvious. But the words and deeds of this foreign woman who is controlling the Government of India as an Extra Constitutional Authority deserve scrutiny. Only then can one understand the latest developments in the nation’s fight against Corruption.
Talk about huge ill-gotten money stashed in tax havens abroad is not new, but acquired focus in the run-up to the 2009 parliament elections. BJP constituted a ‘Task Force’, comprising reputed professionals and intellectuals, which released its ‘First Interim Report’ on 17 April 2009. BJP leader L.K. Advani and others emphasized the issue of black money during the campaign, and made it the singular issue of their election strategy.
This forced the Congress to respond in its campaign. Manmohan Singh gave a commitment that his government, if voted back to power, would take steps within 100 days to bring back the black money stashed in foreign tax havens. After forming the government, he assured the nation through the President’s Address to Parliament that his government would act fast on this issue.
While scam after scam has rocked UPA-II, like the occurrence of terror act after terror act in UPA-I, the BJP appointed Task Force silently gathered facts, evidences, and other relevant materials and meticulously compiled a magnificent dossier on illegal wealth stashed in foreign banks and tax havens. Any sincere and patriotic government would rise to the occasion, request Opposition cooperation and lead a broad consultation on the dossier, and evolve a strategy to bring back the loot.
UPA was keen only to hide the facts, probably for the sake of “Saints and Innocents” at the highest echelons of power! But bombarded by scams and opposition parties, the ‘honest’ PM was forced to sack then Telecom Minister Andimuthu Raja. And that’s it. After that, until his well-rehearsed meet with selected ‘equally honest’ Editors of TV Channels, he kept silent, probably anticipating the orders from his High Command.
During this time, the opposition continued to berate the government about the scams, scandals and Swiss Banks, and a section of the media wrote copious edits and columns on the subject. TV Channels aired debates by experts, including members of the Task Force. One debate mentioned the alleged Swiss bank account of late Indira Gandhi, in the 1970s. Signora Sonia and Signor Rahul preferred to keep mum.
After the release of the ‘Dossier’ titled “Indian Black Money Abroad in Secret Banks and Tax Havens” by the BJP-appointed Task force, Sonia Gandhi wrote to Advani that report contains “Reckless and baseless allegations against her and her family including her late husband and mother”. She said, “These lies, energetically disseminated from time to time by sections of the media and interested parties have so far been treated by me with the contempt they deserve.” (4) Actually that was not true, and recent events showed she had not treated such reports with contempt.
When former RSS Sarsangachalak Sudarshan spoke about the same old “allegations”, which have been in the public domain for over a decade and which Sonia claims she had been treating with contempt, Congress goons descended on RSS offices across the country and indulged in violence even after the RSS distanced itself from Sudarshan ji’s remarks. The RSS suggested she take legal action against Sudarshan, but she refrained, possibly due to some unknown compulsions. May be her experience in the US influenced her decision! (5)
In October 2007, some American citizens of Indian Origin issued a full page advertisement in The New York Times questioning her credibility to address the UN on Gandhi ji’s birth anniversary, celebrated as International Non-Violence Day. She did not treat this slight with contempt, but allowed the Indian National Overseas Congress to file a $100 million law suit in New York Court against those who released the advertisement. INOC filed another law suit in New Jersey Court. (6)
Unfortunately for her, the New Jersey Court promptly dismissed the suit saying INOC had no locus standi, so INOC also withdrew the suit filed in New York Court. But it filed a $20 million law suit in Middlesex County saying that parent party Indian National Congress was defamed in the advertisement. This Court too ruled that INOC was not the proper party and “dismissed” the case “with prejudice,” meaning the matter could not be tried again, citing a Supreme Court judgment that “libel or slander is an injury to a person rather than a party”. (7)
Sonia, thus, did not treat “allegations” with contempt if she felt she could browbeat her opponents using the party and cadres. She only stopped on realizing that prolonged litigation would take her to the ‘witness-box’ in a Court of Law!
What is more, Sonia has been selective in dealing with her opponents. Dr. Subramanian Swamy has placed on his party’s website a section titled “Know your Sonia” where he has given credible evidences, which have prima facie qualified for admission in a court of law. (8) Other reputed columnists have also written essays in the book, “Issue of Foreign Origin – Sonia under scrutiny”, edited by A. Surya Prakash, columnist. A number of foreign journalists like John Maclithon and Francois Gautier have also been critical of Sonia.
Maclithon in The New Indian Express dealt severely with Sonia’s corruption in his column, “An empress of India in new clothes”. Gautier was more scathing in his column, “Sonia’s presence in Delhi is costing India dearly” (2008). Both have written scathing criticisms of Sonia on the Baba Ramdev issue.
Reports in the reputed Swiss magazine, Schweitzer Illustrate about her alleged Swiss bank accounts, and disclosures by noted Russian scholar and journalist Dr. Yevgenia Albats in her book, “The State Within a State: The KGB in the Soviet Union”, has been in the public domain for many years now. A writ petition filed by Dr. Swamy in December 2001 in the Delhi High Court demanding a CBI investigation into her KGB connections is still pending. (9) Another case in Delhi HC filed by Dr. Swamy, pertaining to her alleged smuggling of antiques and artifacts, may come up for hearing as the movement against corruption and black money builds up. (10)
Sonia has chosen to remain silent against strong opponents with evidence against her. She has abused her extra constitutional authority through pliable persons holding responsible positions in government and autonomous institutions like CBI and the judiciary, etc., to either quell the cases or delay the proceedings.
She is not overly worried about corruption, as she can always find ‘scapegoats’ like Natwar Singh for ‘Oil for Food’ scam, ‘Quattrocchi’ for Bofors scam, Kalmadi for ‘CWG’ scam, entire DMK for ‘2G’ scam… What she does fear terribly is real investigation into the “ill-gotten wealth’ which she and her family have allegedly stashed in foreign tax havens.
Of course, she did try to act smart. When BJP took up black money as an electoral issue, she got Manmohan Singh to announce that UPA would take steps within 100 days of forming the government. But on coming to power, the government continued its corrupt practices. When black money returned to the pulpit with the release of the final report by the BJP appointed Task Force in February 2011, she wrote a letter of ‘distress’ to Advani, who immediately apologized with a letter of ‘regret’, a brazen and unilateral act that undermined the meticulous work of his own task force. (11)
Only the issue didn’t subside as she hoped, and where BJP failed, Baba Ramdev proved successful due to sheer hard work, traversing the length and breadth of the country and creating huge awareness on the twin issues of corruption and black money.
Baba Ramdev’s continuous public meetings and swelling crowds truly rattled Sonia. On one side Baba Ramdev was creating a national revolt and on the other Dr. Swamy was creating a sort of revolution in the courts of law. As her government got caught between Baba and Swamy, reports from intelligence agencies added to her misery. As Baba Ramdev was making preparations for a massive rally in Ramlila Maidan on 27 February 2011, where Dr. Swamy had planned to share the dais with him, Sonia took refuge in Gandhism. She sent trusted aides from the NGO industry in the name of ‘civil society’ to bring in the ‘Gandhian’ Anna Hazare to curtail Baba’s movement. She partially succeeded with the help of a sycophant media, which hyped Anna’s drama at Jantar Mantar and created a wedge by terming Anna as ‘secular’ and Baba as ‘communal’.
But Dr. Swamy delivered a punch on 15 April by submitting a 206-page petition seeking the Prime Minister’s sanction to prosecute Sonia Gandhi under Sections 11 & 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (necessary as she holds ‘cabinet rank’ as NAC chairperson). Dr. Swamy listed all her corrupt dealings and nefarious activities in his petition, and considering its size of 206 pages, one can imagine its magnitude. (12)
The petition, largely ignored by the mainstream media, places all facts and evidences with regard to Sonia’s shenanigans since 1974, which include the following:
1. Abuse of PM’s official residence: Sonia functioned as Benami Insurance Agent of Public Sector Insurance Companies in the 1970s giving then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s official residence as her own address. When Dr. Swamy brought this to the attention of the Rajya Sabha on 19 November 1974, Indira Gandhi made Sonia to resign.
2. FERA Violation: Sonia functioned as Managing Director of Maruti Technical Services between 25 January 1973 and 21 January 1975 on a salary despite it being an offence under FERA, and become Managing Director of Maruti Heavy Vehicles Pvt Ltd with an even bigger remuneration. Dr. Swamy notes she lacked the necessary qualifications for both posts, having never passed even High School, and cites Justice A.C. Gupta Commission (1977) which found her guilty of multiple offences under FERA and IPC.
3. Citizen of Italy, Voter in India: Sonia committed an offence under Section 31 of the Representation of the People’s Act read with Form 4 of the Registration of Electors Rules (1960) by enrolling herself as a ‘voter’ in New Delhi constituency in 1980 and 1983 while remaining an Italian Citizen, and despite having been struck off the list in 1982 after a complaint from a citizen.
4. Sonia’s Indian citizenship, acquired in record speed in April 1983, is vitiated by her incomplete answers to mandatory questions in the citizenship forms. Dr. Swamy says she did not submit documents from the Italian government of relinquishing her Italian citizenship, but stated it was ‘Not Applicable’. The Italian Embassy in New Delhi simply affirmed what she told them and that cannot be taken as a valid document of relinquishment for the purposes of citizenship; she retrieved her Italian passport in 1992 after citizenship laws in Italy were amended, which under Section 10 of the Citizenship Act (1955) means cancellation of her Indian citizenship.
5. Bofors scam: Sonia’s connection with Ottavio Quattrocchi; how she colluded with him; how Quattrocchi and his wife Maria had free access to Sonia and her family; how she influenced Rajiv Gandhi through her brother-in-law Walter Vinci during Rajiv’s visit to Switzerland; how she abused CBI in course of the Bofors investigations and facilitated the escape of Quattrocchi. Annexing evidences such as Outlook magazine’s interview of Mr. Sten Lindstorm, Chief of the Investigation Division of Swedish National Bureau of Investigation and Special Prosecutor of the Swedish Government into the Bofors payoffs; Headlines Today’s report on the written statement of then IB officer Naresh Chandra Gosain made before CBI Inspector Ghanshyam Rai on 29 March 1997; how the ITAT Report corroborates the fact that Quattrocchi was a direct beneficiary of the Bofors scam; testimony of Sasi Dharan, driver in Snam Progetti, an Italian public sector giant represented in India by Ottavio Quattrocchi.
6. Sonia’s black money: The monies under her control in Switzerland as a legatee of the corrupt money banked in the name of her late husband or deposited by her of funds obtained from the erstwhile KGB, or by sale of illegally exported antiques in the country; violation of FEMA and FCRA in transactions in connection with this Swiss account. Annexing evidences such as Election Affidavits of Sonia and Rahul in which the details of this wealth were not reported; the report of Swiss Magazine Schweitzer Illustrierte; reports of ‘The Hindu’ and ‘Times of India’ on KGB payments to Rajiv Gandhi Family; the writings of Dr. Yevgenia Albats, a member of the official Commission on KGB Operations set up by President Yeltsin, in her book ‘The State within State’; the recent deposition of Hasan Ali, alleged to have siphoned money to Switzerland secret accounts admits to close association with her and Mr. Ahmed Patel MP and political adviser to Sonia Gandhi.
7. The Oil for Food scam: The United Nation’s Independent Inquiry Committee under Dr. F. Volcker found Sonia’s Congress Party as beneficiary. Swamy mentions the role played by one Marc Rich in selling the benefits, acquired by the beneficiary through the scam, at market price. Marc Rich is a notorious swindler convicted by a US Court for 350 years and several million dollars as fine, pardoned by US President Clinton in 2000 on Israeli Prime Minister’s intervention; now living in Switzerland now. ‘Scapegoat’ Natwar Singh is mentioned citing Volcker Report.
8. Defamation Suit against PIOs: Citing documentary evidences Dr. Swamy mentions the $200 million defamation suit filed by the Overseas branch of the Congress Party (INOC) against Mr. N. Kataria and others, who released an advertisement in New York Times stating all the above-said facts. Citing dismissal of the suit by Justice Emily Goodman of the New York State Supreme Court on grounds that defamation suits in law have to be filed by the person claiming to be defamed, and therefore cannot be assigned to others, Dr Swamy asks, “If Ms. Sonia Gandhi had a case to rebut these facts, then why she failed to turn up in court?”
Dr. Swamy has mentioned in his press statements and media interviews that Sonia’s sisters Anushka and Nadia were beneficiaries of 60% of the 2G scam money. Ultimately he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister dated 24 November 2010, wherein he said, “According to my information two sisters, Anushka and Nadia, of Ms Sonia Gandhi had received sixty percent of the kickbacks in this deal i.e. Rs.18,000 crores each. The frequent travel of Sonia Gandhi and her immediate family to Malaysia, Hongkong, Dubai and parts of Europe including London requires to be probed under the law. What requires your special attention is the mode of the travel, not by commercial airliners, but by jets provided by the corporate sector which itself is illegal under the DGCA Rules. I find that often Ms. Sonia Gandhi and family have travelled to Dubai and then travelled onwards on private jets provided by dubious Arab business interests to Europe. It is not clear on what passport they have traveled. In Dubai they were felicitated by agencies of countries which are hostile to India including that of Pakistan.” (13)
The Sonia family may be involved in CWG as well. In his press statement dated 11 August 2010, reported in the media, Dr. Swamy mentioned, “While abroad recently I was informed by my reliable sources that of the Rs.40000 crores spent to date on Commonwealth Games preparations, about Rs.15000 crores have gone as bribes under cover of payments to consultants and contractors. The recipient of the largest share of the bribe delivered in London is Rahul Gandhi, a Congress MP and son of Sonia Gandhi. In London Mr. Gandhi is known under an alias as Raul Vinci. The Indian High Commission employee in London who has denied his letter of recommendation now, acts as a valet for Mr. Gandhi whenever he visits London, which is at least once a month. Mr. Gandhi is accompanied by his undeclared wife, Colombian girl Veronique.” (14)
Dr. Swamy has been a relentless crusader against corruption in the highest echelons of power. His tireless efforts have seen powerful people like A. Raja, Kanimozhi et al, behind bars. He has mentioned Karunanidhi in his petition. He has also written to the Prime Minister on P. Chidambaram’s role in the 2G scam as Finance Minister; he wrote two letters to CBI, one on 10 May 2011 to A.P. Singh, Director, CBI and another on 13 May 2011 to Hitesh C. Awasthy, Joint Director, CBI, requesting them to question P. Chidambaram as he was deemed culpable in fixing the price for spectrum along with A. Raja. Earlier on 11 March 2011, in his press statement, Dr. Swamy demanded the resignation of Pranab Mukherjee in the issue concerning notorious money launderer Hassan Ali, alleging that Pranab acted as a conduit for Sonia Gandhi. (15)
Meanwhile, ignoring attempts at a ‘communal-secular’ divide, Baba Ramdev continued his campaign and finally announced a ‘Fast unto Death’ Satyagraha at Ramlila Maidan starting 4 June 2011. Sonia was rattled by the information from intelligence sources and wanted to thwart the movement. But Manmohan acted on his own (a rarity) and sent four ministers to receive Baba at the airport and hold negotiations at a 5-star hotel. This didn’t go down well with Sonia and she reportedly called for a meeting late in the evening, where she is believed to have ordered police action. Home Minister P. Chidambaram carried out the instructions and the police swooped on sleeping unarmed innocent Satyagrahis including women and children, at midnight, unprecedented in the history of independent India. Manmohan said “it was unfortunate but unavoidable!” (16)
The 24X7 channels, which totally blacked out Baba Ramdev’s rallies in general and the 27 February rally in Ramlila Maidan in particular, went overboard in giving coverage to him on 3rd and 4th June. That there was more to media’s interests than what met the eye was proved by the subsequent mudslinging on Ramdev by the very same media.
As the government’s barbaric action invited widespread condemnation across the country and Baba Ramdev continued his fast at Haridwar, Sonia again feared a national uprising against black money. Dr. Swamy dropped another bombshell saying that Sonia and her sisters have bought some huge properties of Aga Khan. In a press statement dated 8 June 2011, Swamy stated, “Ms. Sonia Gandhi and her two divorced sisters, Anushka and Nadia, have recently purchased huge properties in Sardinia in Italy from the Aga Khan. From my preliminary money trail investigations, it appears to be paid from the 2G Spectrum Scam loot (about $8 billion) paid to them by A. Raja. Under the Code of Conduct for Ministers, the PM must ask Ms. Sonia Gandhi to declare these assets, or deny the said purchase. In any case a prima facie case is made out under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.” (17)
Strangely, Sonia and Rahul left for Italy the very next day, on 9 June. As Baba Ramdev broke his fast the mother-son duo were in Switzerland. Was it to fix the accounts in tax havens? Nobody knows. (18)
But what had happened after her return from Europe? The Lokpal circus is continuing with Anna Hazare repeatedly exhibiting aversion to Hindu organizations, while simultaneously showing his liking for Sonia. He consulted major political parties and all of them joined the circus. Finally he met Sonia and came out like an obedient servant. The all party meeting failed to arrive at a consensus, but the government announced it would introduce an ‘effective’ Lokpal Bill in parliament during the monsoon session and talked of continuing the debate on Lokpal in the winter session! (19)
Unfortunately for the government, its joy didn’t last long. The Supreme Court gave a slap on its face by appointing a Special Investigation Team for tracking black money. The court was already monitoring corruption cases. (20)
So what will happen to the anti-corruption movement; to the investigations and legal proceedings of various scams including 2G, CWG, etc.? Will CBI be allowed a free hand? What will happen to the SIT constituted for tracking black money? Will the next Chief Justice of India be as good as the present one or as pliable as the previous one? Will Manmohan have the courage to permit Dr. Swamy to prosecute Sonia? Will the courts take serious note of Dr. Swamy’s petition against Sonia? Indeed, we need a Special Court to try Sonia on Dr. Swamy’s petition. Will that happen? It must!
This nation has suffered immensely under this one family. While maladministration and corruption ruled the roost from the beginning, national security has been in peril with the advent of Sonia. Separatism and secessionism are on the rise. There has been an alarming increase in Islamic terrorism, Maoism and Christian Evangelisation. All these evils clubbed with the monstrous menace of corruption are the gravest threat to India.
It is time to end this family’s hegemony over India, to show Sonia the door. Let us do it.
14, 15, 17. http://janataparty.org/pressdetail.asp?rowid=60
The author is a senior journalist