27th February 1997 Chandraswami Arrested For Violations Of Foreign Contributions

St Kitts: He is charged with forgery, but five years on, there is no charge-sheet

Mastermind: The swami is alleged to be the brain behind the attempt to malign V.P. SinghThe Case: in March 1989. when V.P. Singh, as head of the Janata Dal. is fast emerging as the prime poUtical challenger to Rajiv Gandhi in the Bofors scandal, several Indian newspapers publish reports based on documents that Ajeya Singh-V.P. Singh’s son-has an account (No. 29479) with First Trust Corporation Ltd, a bank in the Carribbean island of St Kitts. According to these reports an interest of over US $330,000 has accrued on the deposits, and V.P. Singh is the hidden beneficiary.

Thirteen months later, in May 1990. when Singh is prime minister. Ajeya’s pleas of innocence are vindicated by law-enforcement authorities. In fact. the CBI files an FIR naming Chandraswami, several Indian officials and foreign nationals, and charging them with criminal conspiracy and forgery.

Status of the case: After V.P. Singh became prime minister, a special investigation group (SIG) was created under N.K. Singh, a highly decorated Orissa-cadre IPS officer, to handle the investigation. And a breakthrough seemed imminent when A.P. Nandy. deputy director. Directorate; of Enforcement, who figured in the FIR, reportedly made damaging admissions.

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According to N.K. Singh, who was transferred from his job shortly before he was to interrogate Chandraswami, the case was slowed down by Chandra Shekhar when he became prime minister in November ’90. His accusations are contained in a plea to the Supreme Court, where he lost his appeal on procedural grounds, but not on the merits of his specific charges, against what he said was a punitive transfer.

Pressure on the CBI from the prime minister’s office included calls from the prime minister’s private secretary, C.B. Gautam, and the cabinet secretary, Naresh Chandra, conveying the prime minister’s displeasure. When N.K. Singh ignored the calls and issued a fresh notice to Chandraswami to appear before the SR, Chandra Shekhar personally called the CBI director on January 23. 1991, and said: “Why are you calling him.? He is doing work of rashtriya mahatva (national importance).”

Imposing Facade: Pliticians regularly line up at the palatial ashram of Chandraswami, below, in Delhi to get an audience with himOn March 21. N.K. Singh was posted as inspector-general, Border Security Force. He told India Today: “I went to the Supreme Court because my transfer was vindictive. It was because of the stand I had taken during the investigation of the St Kitts case in which Chandraswami is one of the main accused.”

Four years later, officials admit “investigations are still on”. Simultaneously they also admit that enough progress has not been made because they do not have the original bank documents, and that, in a forgery case, “it is necessary to have original documents”.

It Raids: Incriminating documents seized from him in ’88 continue to gather dust

On February 23. ’88. The Directorate of Investigation (DOI) in the Income Tax (IT) Department conducted a raid under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act, at the business and residential premises of Chandraswami and his associates K.N. Aggarwal (‘Mamaji’), H.C. Nahata and others.

The Findings: The main allegations against Chandraswami were that he acted as an agent in arms deals and other international deals. It was alleged that most of his earnings were illegally smuggled into India from abroad, not long before that, in the form of donations for his trust, Vishwa Dharmayatan. And through the trust, he had invested a large amount of this money in immovable assets, most of which were not disclosed for the purpose of tax returns.

It was alleged that Aggarwal had invested Chandraswami’s concealed, income in movable and immovable assets and concerns like M/s Om Shakti Roller Flour Mills Pvt Ltd, M/s Shakti Enterprises and M/s Om Shakti Food Products Pvt Ltd.

The outcome of the raid apparently revealed a complex network of international transactions and payoffs. An appraisal report prepared by it officials says over 100 pages of documents were recovered from Chandraswami’s residence. These documents deal with: fire trucks for airports, commonly used by the US Air Force; 155 mm shells for US-made guns: 155 mm shells (made in Europe): medium-mobility trucks and 24/26 guns; tow trucks and mack 8-tonne, towed, howitzer, FH-77 Swedish guns; towed, howitzer, FH-70 (UK-made guns); and MI-98. 155 mm, towed, howitzer weapons.

The raid party recovered a letter from the Bank of Credit & Commerce International. Monte Carlo, of August 6, ’86, stating that foreign drafts for US $11 million were deposited in international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi’s account for his personal use, on October 16, ’85, December 26, ’85 and April 11, ’86. According to the Income Tax Department notings, this letter, which was found in the original in Chandraswami’s house, clearly indicates that he had close links with Khashoggi.


Sidekicks: Former counsel Pinaki Misra (left); and aide K.N. Aggarwal alias ‘Mamaji’

According to the it Appraisal Report, documents recovered from Ag-garwal’s premises establish that Aggarwal earns income from various sources and his statement to it officials that he earns income by way of giving advice to his sons’ companies is false.

Since most of the documents recovered during the raid on Chandraswami’s premises did not fall under the purview of the it Department, which deals with undisclosed income and assets, the information should have been forwarded to the relevant departments, the CBI and the Directorate of Enforcement (DOE). In reality, they were just buried.

Fera Violations: Between ’82-’90, nine show-cause notices issued. No action yet.

The Cases: Following several raids conducted by the DOE on the premises of Chandraswami and his associates over eight years, between ’82 and ’90. the directorate issued nine show-cause notices to the godman and his secretary K.N. Aggarwal.

In fact, so serious was the evidence that the then CBI director M.G. Katre told the directorate in November ’87 that in view of indications of large payments of foreign currency to Chandraswami and Aggarwal, a request should be made to the high court to refuse permission to Chandraswami to go abroad.

But Chandraswami continued with his international peregrinations with permission from the courts. Three years after Katre’s warning, the DOE made another big catch. On February 2 3,’ 90, DOE officials once again raided Chandraswami’s and Aggarwal’s residential premises in the capital and obtained documents showing very clearly that Aggarwal had transferred US $5 million from an undisclosed bank to the account of Khashoggi in the Bank of Credit & Commerce International at Monte Carlo.

Details of FERA violations:

  • In ’80. Chandraswami acquired foreign exchange worth US $108,000 from Datoo. K.K. Sharma. a Malaysian resident, transferred the amount to a concern in Hong Kong, M/s United Pan Asian Concern Ltd.
  • On March 14, ’80. Chandraswami acquired foreign exchange worth US $50,000 at Rotterdam, Netherlands. from resident Baidjnath Misier.
  • Statements by aides prove forex dealings.

    In March ’80. Chandraswami acquired foreign exchange worth US $1.50,000 from G.Tjandi Soerdjbalie in Rotterdam.

  • In ’80, Chandraswami got foreign exchange worth US $2.00,000 from Jagdev Parag and Jagdish Parag, residents of Emmelgord, Holland. In the same year, he transferred the amount to a New York company, M/s Magi Interrfetional.
  • In ’82, Chandraswami participated in a joint venture with M/s MB-ST Development Corp, New York, in the construction of a building. He contributed US $78,000 through a nominee. He later withdrew from the joint venture by setting off $ 12 7,000 against a property in Toronto acquired by his nominee Ernie Miller.
  • In ’80, Chandraswami borrowed US $1,00,000 from Singapore nationals Durga Das Sachdeva and Kanti Lal Shah. At Chandraswami’s behest. Shah and Sachdeva deposited the amount in Grindlays Dao Heng Bank. Hong Kong, in favour of M/s United Pan Asian Concern. On their persistentdemand, Chandraswami returned the money in cash to them when he visited Singapore in ’83.

Status of the cases: By’88, the DOE had recorded the statements of all individuals, in India and abroad, whose names figured in the documents that implicated Chandraswami. They corroborated that they had had foreign-exchange dealings with Chandraswami.

In February ’90, DOE arrested Aggarwal and summons for interrogation were issued to Chandraswami’s residence in New Delhi, at Olympic Towers, New York, and on board ‘Khalida’ Yacht, Antibbe, France.

Chandraswami did not appear for interrogation and stayed abroad till November ’90. Says Pinaki Misra, his counsel at the time: “Nothing has been proved so far.” The fact is, no show-cause notice was issued by the DOE in the last case and adjudication proceedings in the earlier cases have come to a halt. Seven years later, officials still claim: “We are continuing our investigations.”

Wide Network: IT officials recovered documents establishing links between Chandraswami and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi (left)Fraud: In ’88, he was charged with cheating an NRI. No charge-sheet filed.

The case: On February 5.’88.the CBI registered a case of cheating and misrepresentation under Section 420 and 120 (B) IPC against Chandraswami and his accomplice K.N. Aggarwal on a complaint lodged by London-based NRI Lakhubhai Pathak. proprietor of Pathali Pickles.

Pathak alleged that the two promised him a government-newsprint contract, and duped him into parting with two cheques worth $100,000.

How Cliandraswaini got away:

  • On February 13, ’88, the CBI arrested Chandraswami and Aggarwal, but released them on bail the same day.
  • After a preliminary round of interrogation, the CBI issue notice to Chandraswami, but he refused to appear for interrogation, pleading ill health.
  • On july 12,’88, a CBI team returned to India after inquiries in the US. the UK and Canada. Surprisingly, the team did not interrogate Lakhubhai Pathak. The investigating team also failed to obtain relevant bank documents from Canada where Chandraswami’s nominee. Ernie Miller, had allegedly deposited Pathak’s money.
  • In March ’88, the CBI forwards a letter rogatory to Canadian authorities requesting evidence that the cheque deposited by Ernie Miller was, in fact, given to him by Pathalc. However, no attempt is made to pursue this.
  • In April ’88, the CBI requests information regarding the activities of Chandraswami, Aggarwal and Miller from the Crime Record Bureaux of several countries. These are not followed up.
  • Concealed income was invested in property.

    On February 26, ’91, Chandraswami is interrogated for the last time.

  • Till September 6, ’95, the CBI DOEs not file an additional affidavit in the Delhi High Court about progress of investigations and informs the court that it has no objections to Chandraswami travelling abroad, contradicting its earlier stand.

Options before the CBI: Either to charge-sheet the accused or close the case. The CBI has done neither, though seven years have passed since the case was filed. This has raised serious doubts about its sincerity.

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