M A I N   N E W S

Telgi scam quantum put at Rs 33,000 crore
Elections force govt to put a lid on the secret figure
Swati Chaturvedi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi March 22
The Intelligence Bureau’s final estimation of the Telgi scam at Rs 33,000 crore has got the government worried since it dents its ‘India Shining’ campaign.

Authoritative sources told The Tribune that the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Mr K.P. Singh, had twice briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs (CCS) that after extensive investigation of the case, this was the exact quantum of the scam the agency had arrived at.

One of these briefings was done during the last session of Parliament and sources say the CCS, which consists of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the External Affairs Minister and the Finance Minister was alarmed by the mind-boggling figure.

The IB was asked to take a second look at its investigations but when Mr Singh remained firm and maintained that the figure was accurate, it was decided to put a lid on the figure lest it should compromise the “feel good’’ factor which was crucial to the election campaign of the National Democratic Alliance.

The handling of the Telgi affair is in direct contrast to the way the government publicised the use of the IB to put the fear of God in the stock market when Mr Arun Shourie, Minister for Disinvestment, unloaded public sector undertaking issues worth Rs 16,000 crore on the market and then claimed that a bear cartel was hammering the price.

Mr Shourie had a widely publicised meeting with Mr Singh and the IB promptly confirmed that there had been a conspiracy to drive down the prices.

Analysts question the wisdom of unloading so much stock and then trying to interfere with the market operation. They say that instead of questioning the IB on the quantum of the Telgi scam, the CCS should have tried to widen the probe since it affects a whole lot of transactions.

Documents accessed by The Tribune reveal that under the influence of the “truth serum”, Telgi had revealed that the quantum of the scam could be even larger than Rs 33,000 crore. The Special Investigation Team officials, who initially investigated the case, say the decision to transfer the case to the CBI just as they were making progress was inexplicable.

Says a member of the SIT: “It takes the case back to square one. It suits the corrupt officials and politicians. Any further revelations can be safely put off till the elections are over”.

The Telgi scam has already claimed some high-profile scalps including Maharastra Deputy Chief Minister Chaggan Bhujbal, Karnataka minister Roshan Baig and Mumbai police Commissioner R.S. Sharma.

While Sharma is in jail charged with accepting a bribe of Rs 22 lakh from Telgi Baig, Bhujbal had to quit office when details of his links with Telgi came out in the open. Bhujbal and his nephew Sameer Bhujbal have been interrogated more than five times by the SIT. Telgi is at present lodged in the Pune jail. He was being questioned by the SIT, headed by an officer who enjoys a reputation for honesty.

This was the reason why the decision to transfer the case to the CBI was inexplicable with the SIT having already undertaken painstaking investigations and revealed the linkages of so many politicians. Sources say both officials and politicians were so scared by the pace of the progress in the investigations that they desperately wanted to halt it till the elections were over.

The Telgi scam broke last year when it was revealed that Telgi had in connivance with the security press in Nashik been printing stamp paper in “industrial quantities”. Sources told The Tribune those investigations so far pointed to many more high profile politicians and officials, including some in the Central government.

They say the counterfeit stamp paper printed by Telgi has probably affected more than half the commercial transactions carried on stamp paper during the past decade in the country. It was so widespread that Union Finance Minister Jaswant Singh was forced to issue a statement that all stamp paper transactions would be honored across the country even those on the fake stamp papers.

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