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'Zaheera got Rs 18 lakh to recant'

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | December 22, 2004 16:08 IST
Last Updated: December 23, 2004 12:54 IST

Zaheera Sheikh, the prime witness in the Best Bakery case, received Rs 18 lakh from a Bharatiya Janata Party leader to change her testimony before the trial court in Mumbai, according to a sting operation carried out by Tehelka newspaper.

According to Tehelka reporter Ashish Khetan, who carried out the operation using a video camera, Chandrakanth Batthoo Srivastav, cousin of BJP legislator Madhu Srivastav, bribed Zaheera.

Tehelka screened the videotape for journalists at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The sting operation, filmed at the Press Club of India in New Delhi for the media and carried out by Tehelka reporter Ashish Khetan, claims that Chandrakanth Batthoo Srivastav, cousin of BJP legislator Madhu Srivastav, bribed Zaheera.

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The Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, showed an edited version of the conversation between Khetan and Chandrakanth Srivastav.

Madhu Srivastav corroborates this during a conversation with Nisar, one of his employees.

He tells Nisar that even after getting Rs 18 lakh, Zaheera has been calling him and demanding more money.

According to the film, Zaheera made the first move by demanding Rs 25 lakh. She eventually settled at Rs 18 lakh after she was told that she would not get a penny more.

"We found out during the investigation that Zaheera Sheikh is not the only eyewitness to the Best Bakery incident," Tejpal said. "Her old nani, who lives in Uttar Pradesh, was present at the scene of the crime, but surprisingly she was not made a witness.

"No, we did not ask the nani about the changing stance of Zaheera Sheikh. But the fact that she was there at the scene of crime is important."

Teesta Setalvad, the social worker accused by Zaheera of intimidating her, was present at the filming.

She later said, "I welcome the expose. Since the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and the trial court I would not be able to comment on her changing statements. The film clips shown by Tehelka would definitely help the court in arriving at the truth."

Asked about the charges made against her that she too had paid money to Zaheera to give testimony against the accused persons, she said, "From the beginning we have been saying that let the CBI hold a probe and come out with its findings."

(With PTI inputs)

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