J Gopikrishnan, a journalist with the Pioneer newspaper, had in mid-2008 broken the 2G spectrum allocation scam story. Since then a lot has happened. Andimuthu Raja was booted out as Union telecom minister and subsequently arrested; and the Central Bureau of Investigation has been diligently probing the scam.
The latest development in the case has caught many unawares. Sadiq Batcha, a key aide of Raja, reportedly committed suicide at his Chennai residence on Wednesday. Batcha was considered to have been Raja's key 'money-transfer-aide' and the only person who could have shown the CBI the 2G scam's money trail.
Rediff.com's Sahim Salim caught up with Gopikrishnan to get a better understanding of the latest twist in the case and its likely impact on the investigations.
Gopikrishnan, who has been closely following the developments, says that he finds it hard to believe that Batcha committed suicide.
What was the importance of Sadiq Batcha in the CBI investigations into the 2G spectrum scam?
Sadiq Batcha was the front man and alleged money launderer of Raja. He was also a connectional link between (DB Realty's MD) Shahid Balwa and Raja.
Balwa's deposition in front of the CBI and in the court said that he (Batcha) had been in touch with him for a long time; from 2005 onwards.
Moreover, Batcha was reportedly the main component in the money transfer issue. Batcha used to run Raja's companies like Greenhouse Promoters and Equass Estate (where he was managing director). So he basically was the link between the 2G money trail and A Raja. He could also have been the link between Balwa's alleged money transfer to Kalaignar TV.
Can you tell us a little about the relationship between Batcha and Raja? Also tell us a little about Batcha's background.
Batcha was the only non-family person in Raja's businesses. He was the managing director of Equass Estates. He was the lone non-relative of Raja to have been entrusted with the senior-most position in Raja's companies. All the other directors in Raja's different companies were his brothers, nephews or nieces.
He was close to Raja and has been associated with him for the past 10 years. He was the main aide of Raja, who took care of the money. He reportedly handled millions of rupees on behalf of Raja, who trusted him.
Batcha belonged to a village called Labbaikudikadu, which is a place notorious for its hawala (money-laundering) operations. If you are asking about his relationship with Raja, he was entrusted with this job because of his alleged hawala dealings.
Now that Batcha is dead, how will it affect the CBI investigations? Has the CBI hit a dead end?
I don't think the death will affect the CBI investigations. As far as my information goes, the CBI has linked Raja directly to most of the deals. As far as my understanding goes, Batcha's death means that one of the accused in the case has departed the world before the judgment. I don't think it will affect the case at all.
Batcha was the key link between the 2G money trail and Raja. So won't his death affect the investigations?
Batcha was the main link, but he was not the only person who could have talked about the money trail. Raja has a lot of other aides, but Batcha was his trusted man and a link between all these hawala operators.
If this case is actually a suicide, do you think pressure was on him -- from the CBI or the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam?
Well, it is too early to declare it a case of suicide. So, I cannot say if the DMK put pressure on him.
And as far as the pressure from the CBI quarters goes, I don't think that was the case. See, I read in a Tamil magazine that Batcha was going to turn an approver (witness) in the investigations.
His wife, who is also a senior director in some of Raja's companies, told the magazine in an interview that her husband would turn an approver. If he was going to turn an approver, why would the CBI put any kind of pressure on him?
You have followed the case closely and know what kind of a man Batcha was. Do you think he committed suicide or was there some kind of foul play involved?
Batcha was booked on a 4.30 pm flight from Chennai to Delhi to present himself before the CBI on Thursday morning. I am not really sure it is a suicide. There is definitely a mystery behind his death.
I cannot say whether someone persuaded him to kill himself or whether he was murdered. Why I am saying this is because he was a hard nut to crack. He started as a rag-picker and see where he reached. He was a man of iron will and not soft enough to commit suicide. He was a tough hawala operator.
There is a big mystery, because somebody might have thought they could hide some key statements by killing Batcha since the news was already out that he was turning approver for the CBI.
Most possibly, there is some kind of foul play involved in this case and there will be a series of theories behind his death. Fortunately, the investigations into his death have been handed over to the CBI. The Tamil Nadu police cannot investigate this case properly.