New Delhi, Jan 15 : Mail Today, the Delhi tabloid, today reported how officials of Enforcement Directorate avoided asking political and business links while questioning Pune-based rogue businessman Hasan Ali Khan on March 28 last year.
The report said, when the Supreme Court asked the Enforcement Directorate to video- record the confession of Pune- based rogue businessman Hasan Ali Khan on March 28 last year, it was expected that details of the numerous black money stashes and political and business links of the man seen as India's biggest tax evader would be incontrovertibly established.
Instead, the agency appears to be paving an escape route for him.The ED allowed the stud farm owner to remain clammed up and cover his tracks by not asking any leading questions on his political or business beneficiaries during the videography session that took place on May 1, 2011.
Even the name of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister, the late Vijay Bhaskar Reddy, which cropped up in Ali's first confessional statement, disappeared mysteriously during the video shoot.
In Ali's earlier statement, recorded on March 18, 2011, he had said while replying to a pointed query by the investigators: “ Mr Vijay Bhaskar Reddy is known to me as a lawyer in Hyderabad. He had appeared on my behalf in a case concerning the SBI around 1985. Mr A. S. Choudhary is also known to me and he is the owner of Navbharat Tobacco Company at Hyderabad. But I do not have any business relations with him.”
The answer, though not very revealing, led the ED straight to the political bigwigs involved in Ali's racket.
In fact, Kashinath Tapuriah, the alleged manager and facilitator of his foreign accounts and fake passports, confessed repeatedly that the ‘ Reddy' being alluded to was none other than the former Andhra CM and Choudhary was an ex- Rajya Sabha MP of the Congress.
During his videography, Tapuriah said: “ Hasan Ali took me to meet Choudhary and Reddy in 2000 and they spoke well of him."I had no personal purpose, but it was Ali who wanted to prove his credibility.”
Curiously, Reddy's name didn't figure in Ali's second confession that was videographed.His links with Reddy and other politicians were not explored at all.
The ED simply asked Ali to respond to news items published in Mail Today which had reported his statements and investigative notings between March 18 and 21.
The tabloid's report had brought out his links and money laundering activities at the behest of high- profile politicians, bureaucrats and filmstars.
Yet Ali was inexplicably not confronted with any evidence or earlier statements.
On the contrary, he was allowed to deny everything. “ I do not know any politicians or film personalities in south ( India),” he said.
In the last eight months since the ED filed its 950- page chargesheet in the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act ( PMLA) court in Mumbai on May 6, 2011, it has not shown any progress in the case.
While the agency had hinted at filing a supplementary chargesheet with the names of prominent beneficiaries of Ali's transactions as well as more details of his black money trail, no such development has taken place so far.
Sources revealed that over 100 bank transactions of Ali were still pending verification with the ED for want of responses and documents from foreign banks.
This was despite the issuance of Letters Rogatory to the nations from courts.In September last year, the ED had told the apex court that it would send a two- member team from its Mumbai unit to other countries in order to substantiate the case against him.
However, to date, the agency's team has yet to take off and its sleuths are not even sure when they will actually travel abroad to dig up the dirt against Ali.
The ED chargesheet primarily revolved around Ali's two fake passports, which he allegedly obtained in Hyderabad and Patna, and two money laundering transactions using what were believed to be proceeds from the sale of the Nizam's jewels stolen from Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad.
It also relied heavily on the confessions of Tapuriah, who was understood to have admitted to having seven foreign accounts in his name and one in that of his wife Chandrika's.
According to the agency's sleuths, it was moving on solid ground on the fake passport as well as money laundering angles.
But in June 2011, the Bombay High Court chastised the Worli police, which was probing the fake passport case against Ali, for failing to even seize the two alleged passports.
Another jolt came in December last year, when Hyderabad's deputy commissioner of police of the detective department responded to an RTI application filed by Ali's counsel Ishwariprasad Bagaria, stating that none of the eight witnesses examined in the Nizam jewels case had spoken about any theft or criminal breach of trust regarding any article from the museum.
The delay is only strengthening Ali's confidence. He filed an application before the Mumbai court on December 15 in 2011, seeking discharge from the money laundering Act case. The court last heard the matter on January 6 this year and has deferred the hearing further.
Bagaria contended: “ What is the case against Ali under PMLA? Close to nine months later, the investigation or trial proceedings have not even inched ahead.”
Since 2007, there seems to be a pattern in the investigations against Ali.
The ED's inability to prove his black money trail using the fake passports has often left the agency crimsonfaced.
Repeated rebukes from the sessions courts as well as pressure from the apex court have not spurred it into taking concrete steps in the case.
A source said: “ The ED has invoked PMLA against Ali because procuring a forged passport is itself a scheduled offence under the Act. But it has been unable to prove that Ali actually stashed several crores in Swiss bank accounts using these passports.”
Notwithstanding the setbacks, the agency is upbeat. An ED official said: “ Whenever the court decides to prosecute Ali, we'll go ahead without delay.”