Last week’s raids by the Income-Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate in the Rs 4,000-crore Madhu Koda scam have ringed Kripa Shankar Singh, Mumbai chief of the Congress, too close for comfort. 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. The timeline is crucial. One, it covers the period when Kripa Shankar was All-India Congress Committee (AICC) observer for Jharkhand, exactly when Koda, an independent MLA then, was sworn in CM with Congress support. Two, Narendra Mohan married Ankita, daughter of Jharkhand politician Kamlesh Singh, in April ’08. Kamlesh Singh was water resources minister in the Koda government and is a key accused in the scam.
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. It’s a trail agencies are now unravelling. The Koda diary, incidentally, mentions a “Kripashankar a/c” with several entries against it. Kripa Shankar has denied it was him, but investigators have placed him and his family under scrutiny.
Documents available with Outlook show 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 cool 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.
Roughly over the same period, Kripa Shankar—who arrived in Mumbai in the ’70s as a potato/onion vendor—was MoS for home in the Vilasrao Deshmukh government. Besides being the Congress’s city unit president, he’s now the party MLA from Kalina suburb.
Paper work Account details of Singh’s kin
But that election could come under a cloud too. 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.
The timeline contains another curious fact: Kripa Shankar appears to have acquired a second PAN card in complete violation of law. His election affidavit 2009 mentions number CFYPS989P as his PAN, but in the affidavit he filed in September 2004 for the assembly election, he gives his PAN as AVAPS1485L. Possessing two PAN cards cannot possibly be an oversight, says an investigator. Was one acquired to conceal transactions in the other, transactions that take the trail back to Koda, Kamlesh Singh and others in the scam?
Kripa Shankar says he has returned one of the cards. He also denies he has had anything to do with Koda and his associates, and insists his relationship with Kamlesh Singh is purely at a family level. When contacted by Outlook, Kripa Shankar Singh had this to say in response: “There in no truth in these allegations. It is all part of a political conspiracy hatched by my political rivals.”