The basis of the account in the book is largely what the author claims is a 'deep throat' which, of course, is not very difficult to identify. There is also no denying that he had tremendous access to documents from different quarters. It is one thing to have a general idea about a scandal, but quite another to have a documented account, and this is what the book provides.
By way of a 'flashback' on the scandal, the book traces the rise of the Jain brothers and the enormous clout they acquired in the corridors of power, first at Bhopal and then in Delhi. Their list of friends included political personalities like Law Minister P. Shiv Shankar, Arif Mohammad Khan, V.C. Shukla, Chimanbhai Patel, bureaucrat H.A. Khan and finally the famous Ottavio Quattrocchi, the agent of the Italian PSU ENI and Snam Progetti. It was this friendship which gave S.K. Jain access to Rajiv Gandhi and the coterie around him and an opportunity to bask in the aura which Quattrocchi had acquired because of his proximity to Rajiv Gandhi's household. It is through Quattrocchi that the Jains, according to the book, succeeded in clinching some key deals which helped them in nearly achieving their ambition of becoming as powerful as the Ambanis. But like the Mundras, perhaps they wanted to achieve too much in too short a time and in the process got embroiled in a web of funding militants with linkages in Dubai. This, perhaps, proved to be their undoing.
It was in the last week of April 1991 that the Delhi Police arrested one Ashfak Ahmed Lone, deputy chief of intelligence of the Hizbul Mujahideen and recovered huge amounts of cash, reportedly meant for militants in the Kashmir valley. The case was transferred to the CBI which found that one of the conduits was a student of Delhi's Jawarharlal Nehru University, Sahabuddin Ghauri. Lone and Ghauri revealed the network through which they received money and the fact that the bulk came from foreign climes through hawala channels.
Subsequently, on May 3, 1991, the CBI conducted simultaneous raids at four places during which they recovered two diaries and two notebooks from one Jaineendra Kumar Jain at his house in Saket. According to the book, the then director and joint director of the CBI had taken a look at the diaries. These were then kept in the CBI 'maalkhana' (safe stores, where case properties are kept at police stations or in the CBI).
In the chapter titled Trap, the author quotes from the 'progress report' submitted by the then DIG in charge of the case, O.P. Sharma, to the then director of the CBI, briefly indicating the gist of what the diaries had revealed. For preparing this report, the DIG obviously had access to the diaries. In a sensational development on July 16, 1991, which incidentally was also the last day of Chandra Shekhar's government, the CBI conducted a raid on the house of its own DIG in charge of O.P. Sharma's case, who according to the book, was suspended later by a reluctant P.V. Narasimha Rao. The book quotes suggestions that Rao questioned the wisdom of trying to trap a senior officer on the last day of Chandra Shekhar's regime. The diaries remained buried in the CBI's maalkhana and on August 10, 1991, Blitz carried a scoop on its front page laying bare the "multi-crore hawala scandal" and the cover up by the Government and the top brass of the agency, as the author puts it.
But even then nothing happened, till a film producer and a 'journalist of sorts', Vineet Narain, and others filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition with the help of eminent advocate and Member of Parliament, Ram Jethmalani in the Supreme Court on December 15, 1993. Jethmalani had earlier addressed a press conference on September 2, 1993, detailing the contours of the case and creating quite a stir. The rest is recent history.
Many, including the CBI, would dispute some of the facts and insinuations made in the book. In some cases, the reader too is left wondering and about other issues he would like to know the whole truth.
For instance, how, after Blitz published the scoop on August 10, 1991, there was almost complete silence over the matter for two years till the Hindi daily Janasatta, for the first time, published the list of recipients in the hawala scandal.
Was the June 16, 1991 raid on the house of the CBIDIG , O.P. Sharma, in charge of the hawala case, a frame-up? The book claims the trap was laid in the house where O.P. Sharma was expecting L.K. Kaul, who arrived with a suitcase and the door was closed thereafter. Kaul had claimed that he was talking from the office of Kamal Morarka, a minister in the Chandra Shekhar government. Earlier, it is said that Morarka had informed the CBI that the election funds had been kept in Jain's house. What happened to his role, especially after the successor government assumed office?
The last word on the hawala scam has not yet been heard. The investigation with respect to quite a few entries in the hawala diary is still in progress. Some cases are pending before the Supreme Court, which is still monitoring the progress. Little can be said at this stage. But a few questions do remain.
The book is highly interesting and well documented.