Sunday, January 30, 2011

What binds Hassan Ali and Congress together?

What binds Hassan Ali and Congress together?

27 January 2011

rajinder puri 

Finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee does not utter lies. He speaks half truths. Regarding black money stashed in foreign banks, he told the media that secrecy had to be maintained in accordance with the provisions of the Double Taxation Treaty signed by the Indian government with 23 other countries. Mr Mukherjee told media: "Let us understand the issue. No information can be made available unless there is a legal framework." What he did not say was that much of the money parked in foreign banks was not related to tax evasion but to crime. There can be no adequate legal framework unless the government launches criminal prosecution against the offenders. In fact the government does not want information from foreign governments. Foreign governments offer information that the Indian government refuses to accept. The German list of 26 names of account holders in Lichtenstein is much talked about. The finance ministry has provided that list to the Supreme Court (SC). Can Mr Mukherjee confirm under oath that there are not 18 other names on that list that have been withheld from the SC? Can he FM deny that the German authorities are willing to furnish four other lists of account holders in banks outside Lichtenstein which the Indian government has refrained from accepting? 
The most glaring case of the government's cover up of criminal money stashed abroad relates of course to Pune-based stud farm owner Hassan Ali Khan. Three years have passed since the discovery of his astronomical cache illegally stashed in foreign banks. In January 2007, raids by the income tax department revealed he hadUS$ 8 billion deposited in just one account in the UBS AG bank,Zurich. He has several other foreign accounts. He had not filed income-tax returns since 1999. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) started probing him for suspected money laundering. After three years, Mr Mukherjee told the media last Tuesday that investigations were still continuing. Meanwhile Hassan Ali walks a free man. Meanwhile, Mr Mukherjee disclosed that the US$ 8 billion had been diverted from the Zurich bank to an unknown destination. Regarding information about black money Mr Mukherjee told the media: "As and when the income tax Authorities will be in a position to prosecute cases against tax evaders, you will come to know". Hassan Ali is not a tax evader. His money in foreign banks comes from crime. Credible foreign banking sources have disclosed that in collusion with Saudi arms dealer Adnan Kashogi, some of Ali's money came from gun running. Did Hassan Ali amass billions of US dollars that attract tax to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore in India from selling horses? If nothing else, could not the government have immediately slapped a disproportionate assets case in addition to money laundering and launched a criminal prosecution against him? 
The government did no such thing. Why not? Very simply, and bluntly, because the Congress party is most likely involved with Hassan Ali and has used his kind services to park its funds illegally abroad. That is why Mr Mukherjee must defend Hassan Ali. This is a serious charge but the circumstantial evidence to justify it is overwhelming. Readers might recall that on 3 May, 2010 it was pointed out in these columns that Hassan Ali held a secret meeting with Congress politicians including the political secretary to the Congress president. This was pointed out in the Maharashtra Assembly by the Opposition and subsequently confirmed after investigation by the state police. The question was posed: "During his interaction with Hassan Ali was (Congress political secretary) Ahmed Patelrepresenting himself or his boss, (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi? If he was representing himself why has Sonia Gandhi not sacked him? If he was representing the Congress president how does Sonia Gandhi explain her party's links with the nation's biggest money launderer who is being protected by the finance minister?"     
There was no response in word or deed to the question raised. It is fair to infer therefore that Mr Ahmed Patel was not acting singularly but representing his boss, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. What other conclusion can one draw but that the Congress is guilty and the government is doing everything to protect its partner in crime, Hassan Ali? Today theCongress presents a strange picture. It reminds one of a sinking shipin which the captain, the first mate and the second mate all hate each other. However because the ship is sinking, fear binds them all. Let Mr Pranab Mukherjee know. All the half truths, the obfuscation and the bluster will not prevent the Congress ship from sinking. Its day is done. Smart Congress leaders should learn from rats. They shoulddesert the ship before they sink with it.   

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist 

Palash Biswas
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