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Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam

Nearly five years after riding to power, PM Narendra Modi’s vow to punish the “corrupt” appears to have run out of steam.

  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    Agusta Westland helicopter deal, 2013
    UPA-1 accused of favouring contract to Italian company Finmeccanica for VVIP helicopters; bribes allegedly paid to government and military officials
    Accused: Middlemen, politicians and military officials
    Arrest: IAF chief SP Tyagi, his brother, and lawyer allegedly involved in the money transfer
    Status: One chargesheet; middleman Christian Michel extradited to India. Court clears all suspects in Italy
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    2G Spectrum auction, 2008
    UPA-1 telecom minister, public officials and corporates accused of granting 2G Spectrum licences at under-valued rates; exchange of kickbacks alleged
    Accused: A. Raja, Kanimozhi and more
    Arrest: Raja, Kanimozhi and corporate officials
    Status: All accused acquitted; appeals pending
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    FIPB clearances, UPA-1 rule
    Aircel Maxis (2011) Offshoot of 2G case, where telecom minister Dayanadhi Maran is accused of forcing Aircel to sell to Maxis; finance minister P. Chidambaram accused of stalling clearance till company shares given to his son
    Status: Marans discharged, PC and son Karti C. charged; ED notice to Maxis owner in Malaysia
    INX media (2010) Money-laundering through FDI. PC called for questioning; son Karti accused of bribery
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    Chit fund, West Bengal, 2013
    Rs 2,500-crore Saradha and Rs 17,000-crore Rose Valley scams. Money from depositors used to buy shares and assets at inflated values to skim cash
    Arrest: Fund owners, including Sudipto Sen of Saradha; TMC parliamenterians; journalist Suman Chattopadhyay
    Status: Chargesheets filed by CBI; probe and trial pending
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    Coal block allocation, 2012
    Officials skipped tendering process and allocated coal blocks across the country; Supreme Court cancelled them
    Accused: Former chief ministers, Union ministers and senior bureaucrats
    Arrest: Multiple, including a fixer
    Status: Jharkhand ex-CM Madhu Koda convicted of a Rs 3,500-crore mining scam; probe in other cases
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    Adarsh Housing Society, Mumbai, 2012
    Top retired military officers allegedly manipulated housing for war widows and veterans. Then CM Ashok Chavan quit but cleared by court
    Accused:Army officers, state officials, building promoters
    Arrest: Eight, including former army generals
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    Tatra military trucks, 2012
    A former liutenant general had allegedly offered then chief of army staff, General V.K. Singh, Rs 14 crore to buy more trucks for the military than required. Allegations emerged that the defence ministry and BEML officials skimmed bribes from inflated payments.
    Arrested: Lt Gen. (retired) Tejinder Singh
    Status: Closure report filed in acquisition case
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    NRHM, Uttar Pradesh, 2012
    Rs 1,000 crore pilfered from the National Rural Health Mission, social welfare scheme. This came to light after two chief medical officers were murdered. Public outrage over the killings forced UP ministers B.S. Kushwaha and A.K. Mishra to resign.
    Accused: Government officials and BSP state ministers
    Status: Multiple chargesheets filed
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    Kingfisher Airlines bank loan default, 2012
    Liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s airline failed to repay loans—about Rs 6,000 crore—taken from a clutch of public sector banks. Mallya went to London in 2016 when the loan default turned into a financial scandal.
    Accused: Bank officials, Mallya, many more
    Arrest: Bank officials
    Status: Prosecution underway; government has won the first round in the Mallya extradition case in the UK
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    ISRO—Devas/Antrix deal, 2005
    The CBI had alleged a Rs 580-crore loss to exchequer following then ISRO chief Madhavan Nair and other officials’ decision to give the S-band spectrum to Devas Multimedia
    Accused: Nair and other officials
    Arrest: None
    Status: Trial on; Nair joined BJP in Kerala this year.
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    Vyapam, Madhya Pradesh
    One of India’s biggest scams that involved paying bribes to get government jobs and admissions to medical colleges. Several people have been found dead/killed while the case is still pending.
    Accused: MP govt officials, candidates, middlemen
    Arrested: low-level officials
    Current status: Chargesheets filed; A few students and middlemen convicted; prosecution ongoing in most cases
  • Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam
    PNB banking scam
    Diamantaire Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are accused of fraudulently withdrawing Rs 13,600-crore from Punjab National Bank through letters of undertaking. Modi ran away after the scandal erupted. The government responded with a new law against economic offenders, while the ED and the CBI are trying hard to get them back.
    Accused: Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, PNB officials and people from the jewellers’ firms
    Arrest: Choksi aide; PNB officials
    Status: Extradition of Modi awaited; probe on; ED chargesheet filed
Many High-Profile UPA-Era Corruption Cases Losing Steam

Not a long time ago, the 2G Spectrum allocation case was seen by many as the mother of all scams in India; the flagship of institutionalised corruption under the Congress-led UPA government, the BJP would tell us. In Dece­mber 2017, a special court acquitted all accused, including A Raja, the telecom minister during UPA-1. The special judge ruled tha there was no evidence against the accused despite the Enforcement Directorate insisting there was a clear money trail. The ED and CBI have appealed in the Delhi High Court while A Raja has released his memoirs.

Nearly five years after riding to power, PM Narendra Modi’s vow to punish the “corrupt” appe­ars to have run out of steam. Many high-profile cases of alle­ged corruption, often cited by Modi in the run-up to the 2014 polls, too are stalled in different stages. Out of 15-odd major cases, there have been convictions in some cases of the coal block allo­cation scam, in one of which former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda was sentenced to three years in jail, though suspended later. (See graphic)

BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli says the cases are on track. “PM Modi in the first cabinet meeting set up the long-pending SIT on black money. Laws have been further strengthened and absconders in foreign lands are under active legal pursuit. Investigative agencies are following up all cases as per due legal process. It’s only a matter of time that each case will reach its logical conclusion.”

The biggest setback for the NDA government came when a power struggle within the Central Bureau of Inves­tigation (CBI) spilled out into the open recently. Top investigators who would be testifying against criminals are now fighting it out in the Supreme Court. The ED, which investigates financial crimes, too found itself in the spotlight when its top investigator in Delhi, Raj­eshwar Singh, was shunted out. Singh is credited with unearthing money trails in many of these alleged corruption cases.

Opposition parties and critics accuse the Modi government of using the CBI—once referred to as the “caged par­rot” by the Supreme Court—to target political rivals. A few cases have indeed been pulled out of cold storage, which, many believe, is timed with an eye on the general elections a few months away. One of the big names is that of journalist Sumon Chattopadhyay, whose name has figured in the multi-crore Saradha scam that rocked West Bengal in 2013-14. There were allegations that several top leaders of the ruling Trinamool in Bengal were beneficiaries in the scam. Chattopadhyay was arrested from Kol­kata last week. In other news, former chief of Indian space agency ISRO, G. Madhavan Nair, has joined the BJP. Nair is an accused in a multi-crore corruption scandal in the agency.

Modi had picked up the cudgels against corruption from the trail left behind by Anna Hazare’s 2011 movement, which also spawned Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (BJP). The CBI recently charged AAP minister Satyendra Jain in a graft case.

Former Union finance minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, a vocal critic of Modi, says the government “has been lackadaisical in bringing the corrupt to book and whatever little was done was to gain political mileage”.

The Congress, on a high after winning three crucial states in the Hindi heartland recently, agrees. “It is ironic that the cause-célèbre of the anti-UPA brigade, which was the 2G affair, ultimately collapsed like a castle of sand in the courts of law. Nothing symptomises the duplicitous effort to undermine the UPA than what happened to the entire 2G matter,” says former Union minister Manish Tiwari.

One of the most frequent targets of NDA leaders in 2014 was businessman Robert Vadra, also the son-in-law of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. In the past four years, investigators would fall silent when askesd about the probe against Vadra, accused of money-laundering and land grab. It was only last week that the ED decided to question him. The Congress says it is also timed to coincide with the polls.

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