Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Bofors, a Gandhi trust and Quattorochhi
The long-running saga of sleaze in Indian
politics will be with us for some more time. Even as scams
far bigger than Bofors in terms of monies stolen from the people
-- the Rs 50 billion securities scam, for instance --
were buried rather prematurely a million fathoms deep thanks to
the failure of the nation's watchdogs, a new line of investigation
is beginning to trace the ultimate recipients of the Bofors
It is now certain that Ottavio Quattorochhi, the Italian
businessman who wielded immense clout in the corridors of
power during the regimes of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, transferred
a substantial part of the money from his secret Swiss account
to a trust operated by the Gandhi family. Quattorochhi, it may be
recalled, was stationed in New Delhi for several years as
the representative of the Italian industrial conglomerate,
Snamprogetti. While in India he swung many deals for
his principals besides acting as a high-priced freelance `fixer' in
Once it became known that he was one of the petitioners
in a Swiss court opposing the transfer of secret documents to
the Indian government, Quattorochhi was allowed by the P V
Narasimha Rao government to flee this country.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has tracked down a Gandhi trust,
which was floated several years ago with the assistance of a well-known
firm of solicitors. But the CBI is treading gingerly in its investigation about
the movement of funds from the Quattorochhi account given the extreme
sensitivity of the Congress party in the matter.
Working at cross purposes
More often than not the right hand of the government does
not know what its left hand is doing. The case in point is the
re-modelling and modernisation of the Hazrat Nizamuddin railway
station in the capital.
Due to the increased number of trains
starting and terminating at the station, a couple of years ago
a plan was devised to cut it off from the Nizamuddin east residential
colony. To facilitate an easy flow of station-related traffic
as also to protect the historic monuments in its vicinity
from increased vehicular pollution, the plan envisaged the demolition
of a large number of houses of railway employees, including
the bungalow of the station master himself. All this was duly done.
The Delhi Development Authority and the railways spent tens of millions
of rupees to implement the plan. A new bridge to widen the bara pulia,
the historic bridge built during Sher Shah Suri's time, was
sanctioned. A high wall cutting off the Nizamuddin colony from
the station was erected. But the very purpose of the original plan
was defeated when a huge gap in the wall was left wide open so that
the station traffic could walk straight into the colony.
Recently when the matter came up before the Delhi high court on a public interest
petition, it was revealed that the railways wanted the gap in
the wall closed whereas the DDA wanted it to stay. The reason:
the shopkeepers in front of the station had got on to the DDA to defeat
the plan. The Prime Minister's Office is
now investigating what led the DDA to take such a contrary
The tainted trio
much speculation in the higher echelons of
the bureaucracy about the identity of the three central ministers
who were reported to be raking in the moolah by dispensing official
patronage. Union Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramaniam is
said to have briefed the prime minister recently about the functioning
of these ministers.
A couple of months ago when Subramaniam was appointed
Cabinet secretary he was specifically asked by H D Deve Gowda
to be his 'eyes and ears' He was expected to bring to the
prime minister's knowledge any hanky-panky in his government. Subramaniam
gathered the information through the usual bureaucratic channels
but was careful in passing to Deve Gowda only a sanitised version.
These ministers, he told the prime minister, were said to be collecting funds
for their party and he hoped they were authorised to do so. Deve Gowda
in turn is said to have spoken to the concerned ministers.
The identity of the trio is still a mystery though in all speculation
Chand Mahal Ibrahim, the minster for civil aviation
and information and broadcasting, invariably figures. Any guesses
about the other two names?
'Farmers' in trouble
The capital's millionaires are in a tizzy due to
the determination of an honest income tax official to do his
duty without fear. Senior income tax officer Amitabh Shukla,
whose pregnant wife and domestic servant were attacked at his
home last month, has been personally surveying the opulent
farmhouses in the Mehrauli-Chattarpur complex in South Delhi.
Given their plush interiors what with marble and granite floorings
and expensive fittings and with swimming pools to boot, Shukla
has been trying to locate the real owners of these weekend retreats
of the capital's rich and the famous. And sending the benami owners
a show cause notice to explain their source of wealth.
While the going rate per acre in the area is close to Rs 10 million,
invariably the sale registration is done at less than Rs 100,000
an acre. Shukla has spent many fruitful days talking to the workers at
these farmhouses to get at the amount of unaccounted
money sunk in there.
Amaraswamy at it again
He had owed his job to the capital's number one fixer,
Amar Singh, the liaison man- turned- member of Parliament. And he
has lost it too due to Amar Singh. Govind Mishra became chairman
of the Central Board of Direct Taxes a couple of months
ago thanks to Singh's patronage.
Singh had hoped that Mishra would
be grateful enough to do his bidding and save his friends from
the revenue sleuths while 'fixing' those who had incurred his wrath.
But given the new mood of transparency generated by judicial activism, the
revenue sleuths recently raided the bigwigs of Bombay's film industry.
Among them happened to be the Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited.
and the raid on ABCL proved to be Mishra's undoing. For Amitabh
relies on Singh to bail him out of trouble from all government agencies. This time when Singh wanted the
raid on ABCL called off and the IT official in Bombay, who
sanctioned it penalised, Mishra pleaded helplessness.
He couldn't intervene without inviting the wrath of the entire
department, Mishra told Singh. In that case,
you must go, Mishra was told. And he went.