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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kripashankar Singh

Man of double identity

Kripashankar Singh, who started out as potato-onion vendor in the by lanes of Santacruz in the 70s and rose to become minister of state for home in the Maharashtra cabinet last term, is presently Mumbai Congress chief. He stayed in a small shack at Kherwadi Chawl at the mercy of his brother when he first arrived in Mumbai. He was very well focused and the desire to get into politics which urged him to join the Congress. Immense patience and hard work got him home portfolio in the Vilasrao Deshmukh government. How Kripa entered politics is a great story; he actually lied to the then Congressmen saying that he is from Rae Bareli which was then Indiraji's constituency. Besides being the Congress's city unit president, he's also the party MLA from Kalina suburb. His very nomination may come under the scanner as the affidavit filed under Rule 4-A for the October 2009 Maharashtra assembly polls does not mention the duplex apartment under immoveable assets held by spouse; nor does it disclose four other properties either held by his wife or in which she has financial interest. This became the subject of an election petition filed by one of Kripa Shankar's rivals from Kalina constituency - Chandrakant G. More of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena - in the Bombay High Court.

Singh, who is known for actively lobbying for the ministerial berth, got the first big blow when his name cropped up in the Enforcement Directorate's raids on Koda's vast empire. Kripashankar Singh's son Sanjay is married to the daughter of former Jharkhand Minister Kamlesh Singh, who has also been raided by the Income Tax and Economic Offence Department (IT/ED) in connection with Koda's money laundering racket. Following the money trail, ED raids on Balaji Group in Mumbai revealed Singh's link with Koda's scam. The second blow came to Singh when Income Tax authorities disclosed that Singh had quoted different PAN numbers in the affidavits to the Election Commission in 2004 and 2009. Singh's affidavit, posted on the Election Commission's website, gives his Income Tax PAN number declared in 2004 as AVAPS1485L, while in 2009 election, it is CFYPS989P. According to IT sources, the nomenclature Permanent Account Number is self-explanatory that it cannot change during the holder's lifetime. Any change in the address or city would entail a change in the assessing officer but not the number. There is speculation that Singh may have used separate PAN cards for his bank accounts and assets away from the glare of the tax authorities. Possessing two PAN cards cannot possibly be an oversight. It has certainly raised doubts over his amassed properties… Was one PAN card acquired to conceal transactions in the other; perhaps even the transactions that take the trail back to Koda, Kamlesh Singh and others in the scam? Sources said that Singh could be prosecuted under the provisions of the IT Act if it was proved that he had deliberately violated the law. What action, if any, has the government taken against these 'political criminals'? Deo, former Deputy Mayor of the city, has filed complaints with the Mumbai Police Commissionerate, Economic Offences Wing, Governor of Reserve Bank of India and Director of Income Tax (Investigation). In his complaint, the BJP leader has accused the former Minister of State for Home, of money laundering and amassing money by corrupt practices, stating that Singh and his family have taken undue advantage by abusing power in complete disregard to the provisions of law. He sought to link Singh with the Madhu Koda hawala scam, saying Singh was instrumental in getting Koda's government installed in Jharkhand since Koda was an Independent MLA. Deo pointed that Kripashankar's son Sanjay Singh alias Narendramohan Singh alias Narendra Kumar Singh is married to Ankita Singh, who happens to be the daughter of the then Water Resources and Energy Minister Kamlesh Singh. Koda and Kamlesh Singh are co-accused in the Madhu Koda scam. Not only Singh, but his wife Maltidevi Singh and son Sanjay Singh also possess two PAN cards. There cannot be two mistakes in the same family, Deo charged and said that this has been done to hoodwink agencies so that their financial transactions could be hidden. He alleged that Singh's daughter Sunita Singh has two ration cards. He further alleged Kripashankar has amassed crores in his own and his relatives name. ''We have got details of how his relatives Surendra Singh, Doodnath Singh and Amit Singh have overnight turned into millionaires,'' he said. There are also allegations of the management of Santacruz branches of United Bank of India and Samata Cooperative Bank being hand in glove with Singh to ensure that the fraudulent and 'benami' transactions were not brought to the notice of the RBI or the IT departments. Deo charged that it is obvious this man and his family have been creating a number of identities to escape the attention of Income Tax and other agencies. When we tried contacting Kripashankar in this regard, he was not available for any comment. However, the sources close to him have denied the allegations leveled against him, saying that they have been leveled with an aim to tarnish his image in the eyes of public. While the aides may downplay the accusations related to the Koda Scam, Kripa's history is hardly clean. His taints go back to 2001, when Kripashankar Singh was accused of having links with an illicit arms supplier Lal Khan Amin Sahi. Letterheads seized from Sahi claimed he was the secretary of the north Mumbai Congress committee and carried names of Singh as well as Congress leader Murli Deora. In 2001, Gadkari, who was still a state level man of the BJP, had taken up the matter with the then governor P.C. Alexander. In a letter, the BJP leader had sought the Governor's intervention in the matter and urged him to instruct the chief minister to dismiss Singh from his post. The opposition in the Maharashtra's lower house had accused Singh of giving a clean chit to an al Qaida suspect, Mohammed Afroze during his tenure as the state Home minister. During an interrogation Afroze had told the Mumbai police that he had received training in flying in Australia and England and had been assigned by the al Qaida to bomb the British parliament building. The opposition had maintained that Singh had told mediapersons that Afroze was not connected with any militant group and was arrested for robbery. The opposition alleged that Singh had been providing police protection to Lal Khan on the grounds that he was threatened by the Chhota Shakeel gang. The then minister of state for Home, Manikrao Thakre came to Singh's defence and made a statement in the house since Singh was absent. At the end of the day's proceedings, Thakre had turned the tables on the opposition when his statement pointed out that Lal Khan was provided police protection on the instructions of the central intelligence bureau since there was a threat to his life from the Chhota Shakeel gang. The Mumbai police on December 9, 2001 had arrested Lal Khan on the charge of providing arms to a murder accused. The financial discrepancies that are being unearthed by the ED may just be the tip of the ice berg as more and more dubious dealings of this leader are unearthed. His claim to political fame was a simple mix of money power and playing on people's temptations. He has been closely associated with many 'spiritual gurus' as they are sure to garner him instant popularity amongst the few thousands that follow him. A similar ploy was used to catapult him as a 'leader of the Uttar Bhartiya people.' He lavishly spends on 'literary meets' and 'Hindi' centric events. As a result, he has created a group of 'Yes Boss' men who in turn have spread the word of him being their 'leader.'For the smaller audiences and, if it may be said so, the more quality conscious ones like he ones that make up the coterie of the Gandhi family, he launched a magazine called 'The World of Priyanka'. No points in guessing the theme of the magazine. The magazine was circulated amongst a few hundred Congressmen sure to appreciate his 'appreciation'. As a result, he has managed to get some leverage out of those close to the Gandhi family; how much successful he has been in getting close to the family, is still unknown. His demeaning gesture to carry chappals of a boy half his age and revere him in over-exaggerated words, much to the boy's own dislike; speaks a volume about the character of this man. Some Khas Aadmi sheltered under Congress party are criminals who have left no time for the Congress to look after the welfare of common man though their agenda is Aam Aadmi. He is but one such example in the Congress fold. A certain extent of criminalization may even be preferable for the masterminds in 10, Janpath as these illegalities become the leaders' Achilles heals which are targeted to make him tow the party line. Mumbai regional Congress committee chief Kripashankar Singh is going to be the first political link of Koda's money laundering scam whose ramifications have begun to reach at the door of the Congress. Maharashtra Congress in-charge AK Antony is soon expected to file a report to party President Sonia Gandhi suggesting Singh's removal after his name cropped up along with Lalu Prasad as beneficiary of the fodder scam. As per Government formation on May 20 to precise Kripashankar Singh had escorted Madhu Koda to meet Sonia Gandhi for pledging his support to the UPA. The decision from the party high command is expected after completing the formalities on Government formation in Maharashtra, but even after so many months of formation Kripashankar is favoured by party high command because Kripa is the blue eyed boy of Pratibhatai Patil, his actual mentor in Congress. He achieved success and got into politics by buttering seniors. Senior Congress leaders said the party high command has already made up its mind to remove Singh from the party post and was waiting for Antony's formal report on charges of Singh's links with Koda's illegal money transactions. Kripa's major roles in Maharashtra politics are nothing but supplying woman and wine to the biggies and please them with their cravings. In 2007, there was a book written on Kripa “Mujhe Mera Kam Karne Do”. It created a major controversy as it spilled the beans on the actual activities of this mantriji. The controversy spiraled into the writer being threatened to death when the launch of book turned to be nightmare. One has to wonder why the book was heavily censored and barred from becoming public if Kripa had nothing to hide.

The paper trail

Raids by the Income-Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate in the Rs 4,000-crore Madhu Koda scam have cast a shadow on the Mumbai chief of the Congress, Kripa Shankar Singh. Investigators are examining, among his other assets, savings bank accounts of his family that show disproportionately large transactions between 2006-07 and 2008-09, and several discrepancies in documents that suggest forgery. Eight savings bank accounts of his family members and close associates are under the scanner. Three of these accounts show cash deposits and transfers of nearly Rs 65 crore in two years by Kripa Shankar's wife Maltidevi Singh and son Narendra Mohan Singh, neither of whom has known sources of income. Both Koda and Kamlesh Singh were arrested in November last year; the Jharkhand vigilance bureau filed preliminary chargesheets last month against them for holding assets disproportionate to known sources of income. Kamlesh Singh's assets were estimated at nearly 130 per cent more than his sources of income. However, a considerable sum of scam money may have been diverted through his daughter, son-in-law and the latter's father, Kripa Shankar.

The paper trail reveals the following:

• A/c number 20699, with Samata Sahakari Bank Ltd (Santa Cruz East branch), shows deposits ranging from Rs 1 lakh through Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh and up to Rs 25-30 lakh on each occasion. One deposit on July 17, 2007, is for Rs 1.05 crore. This account is jointly held by Maltidevi Kripa Shankar Singh and Narendra Mohan Kripa Shankar Singh. • Narendra Mohan holds two accounts in his name, A/c 18966 and A/c 1536, in the same bank. The first shows several cash deposits running into over Rs 3.3 crore; in addition, over Rs 20 crore has been deposited in it by two well-known Mumbai-based real estate companies. One of these firms bagged the contract in 2007 to rehabilitate 85,000 slum-dwellers from airport land to release it for the airport expansion currently under way. • Narendra Mohan has another account here, A/c 21535, this one held jointly with wife Ankita. This shows cash deposits thus: Rs 20 lakh, Rs 50 lakh, Rs 13 lakh, Rs 10 lakh, Rs 25,000, Rs 5 lakh, Rs 15 lakh, Rs 5 lakh, Rs 3.5 lakh, Rs 1.5 lakh in all, a sum of Rs 1.23 crore between July 7 and October 14, 2008. Ankita and Narendra were married at a lavish ceremony in Ranchi in April that year. • Kripa Shankar's family owns properties in projects executed by one of the real estate companies which deposited huge amounts into his son's account; the company also has infrastructure projects in Jharkhand. • There was a sudden rise in the wealth and property acquisitions of the Kripa Shankar family in Mumbai during the years Koda held sway in Jharkhand (first as mines minister in the Arjun Munda led BJP regime, and later as CM). This includes a large duplex apartment near Mumbai airport (domestic terminal), a bungalow on Bandra's Carter Road, known as one of the costliest miles of real estate in Mumbai, office spaces and shops at key locations in projects by either of the two real estate companies associated with the family, and land in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. • Kripa Shankar's wife Maltidevi unlettered and pious by his own description holds commodity forward trading accounts which, on paper, show losses of Rs 1.17 crore. There are discrepancies in the personal details provided for the two accounts, one is in the name of Maltidevi Kripa Shankar Singh, while the other sub-broker account is in the name of Maltidevi Uma Shankar Singh (the middle name is her late father's). Investigators say the multiple identities may have been useful in routing that much more black money into the legal system. All this could well be the tip of the iceberg, say investigators who do not rule out the possibility of other benami transactions and investments that are more difficult to unravel. The modus operandi of the family seems to have been to use two of the bank accounts for cash and other deposits, which were then transferred into other accounts for investments into real estate, commodities markets and the like. The role of the bank too has come under scrutiny. After having highlighted these discrepancies, it remains to be seen what action, if any, are taken to gain clarity on the beneficiaries of these transactions.

Holding two pan cards…

Every person is required to hold only one PAN Card. If any person has been allotted two or more PAN Cards, he/she may retain any one of them and surrender the others through a letter addressed to the Income Tax Officer of the jurisdiction in which his/her income is assessed to tax. It is infact illegal to have two or more PANs and the penalty for such offence is Rs.10,000. As per law having 2 PANs by one individual is an offence. It will attract both prosecution and penalty. Kripa Shankar is not been published so far under neither of these provisions. The format for lodging the complaints against the person who has 2 ration cards in same name is an offence. Why Sunita Singh Not been Punished or taken under legal clutches? Is it jus because her father is power holder? It is unfortunate but not surprising that those in power try to derail the probes into cases of corruption where politicians are directly involved. And this Madhu Koda case is one such big scam though neither the first nor the last of its kind. I think the media role in such matters has so far been limited to mere reporting and nothing beyond that. It also shows that our system which is so vulnerable to the machinations of our political class can also be influenced by strong public opinion. High time for the media to realise and define its role vis a vis corruption in public life. Our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is clean and he wants to portray Madhu Koda as clean despite Rs4000 crore fraud. This is why person like Ujjal Choudhury is transferred suddenly and abnormally from Ranchi to Patna office of Income Tax Department to stop the exposure of politicians involved in Madhu Koda scam. Indian economy has become poorer by Rs.73 lakh crores as the amount has been lost in over numerous scams during the last 18 years i.e. during economic reformation era since 1991. India was rocked first by Harshad Mehta security scam of Rs.5,000 crores. It was followed by Rs.1300 crore fertilizer import scam, Rs.35000 crore stamp scam, Foddar scam of 1000 crores ,Teak plantation scam of Rs.8,000 crores, UTI scam of Rs..4800 crores, Scorpene submarine scam of over Rs.18,000 crores, Pune billionaire Hassan Khan tax default of Rs.50,000 crores and Satyam Scam of Rs.10,000 crores and Army ration pilferage of Rs.5000 crores. The 2-G spectrum swindle of Rs.60,000 crores and illegal money in Swiss Banks over Rs.71 lakhs crores have been considered the major setback to the Indian economy. In addition to this rice export scam of Rs.2500 crores, Orissa mine scam Rs.7,000 crores, Madhu Koda mining scam of Rs.4,000 crores, a cover-up operation which involves a scam of Rs.60,000 crores and in the spectrum scam the Government lost Rs.60,000 crores. Had the Government been able to recover the entire scam money of Rs.73 lakh crores it could help the country in building 2.4 crore primary health centres, 24 lakh Kendrya Vidalayas 14.6 crore low cost houses and over 2000 coal based power plants of 600 MW capacity each. The money involved in the scams, if retrieved, could help the Government in constructing 14 lakh km of two-lane highways, it would help the authorities in undertaking cleaning operations of 50 rivers with Rs.1200 crores being spent on each river. It could help the Government to give Rs. 56,000 to each Indian or Rs.1.82 lakh to 40 crore Indians living below the poverty line. Interestingly the scam money is 27 per cent more than the country's GDP of Rs.53 lakh crores. Political and economic pundits say that despite these scams the centre and the state Governments have yet to adopt a foolproof mechanism which could prevent the country from bearing the burden of further scams in the future. They always say that there is need for amending the relevant laws so that any agency or individual found involved in some scams immediate action is initiated and measures are taken in hand to recover the entire money. Everyone admits that after the recent global recession India no longer can bear the pinch of scams.

IAS officers, IPS officers are caught with unaccounted crores of rupees, politicians have been found to have property worth hundreds of crores of rupees, CMs of state found to be indulged in scam worth thousands of crores of rupees and so on. But government seems to be helpless or do not like to open Pandora's Box. This is why one after other task force committees are established to look into scam and then the entire episode is stored in almirahs for decades. Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule, preferred to reserve her opinion. When we told her about the availability of documents she ignored it saying, “Its Congress' internal matter and NCP has nothing to do with it.” “Its high time Kripa should come clean and talk about the issue, if he is not to be blamed then he should be available for explanation.” BJP's veteran leader Ram Naik “If found guilty he must leave the party and face the punishment.” Senior advocate Kunjuraman “Justice should be given to everybody. And if Kripa is involved I believe he should be punished the way Koda was. Just because his party his ruling today she should not be spared under the name of Congress.” BJP MLC, Pasha Patil.