FORMER minister and Rajiv Gandhi acolyte Satish Sharma has never been known to be too flashy. So when the CBI summons in connection with the chargesheet in the JMM payoff case reached him at his unknown destination in Europe, he complied quietly. A day after he received the summons, Sharma checked into the business class of a British Airways flight to Delhi, landed at the international airport, stood in the immigration line with minimum fuss and walked out of the green channel. A gleaming Contessa waiting outside took him away to his swanky farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi.
Such a low-profile return is understandable only if several dealsof which the JMM case is only but a fractionhave become public knowledge and the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have begun peeping into his broom closet, which by all accounts is very full and sordid. On November 2, however, Sharma declined to appear at the CBI headquarters citing ill health and his appearance at the Supreme Court earlier in the day, as reasons for not doing so. In any case, within hours of his landing at his farmhouse on November 1, a group of CBI sleuths had questioned him at length about the JMM payoffs and his connections with petroleum-based industrialists. Sharma is known to have denied the charges saying that the whole thing was "motivated and unclear".
The CBI chargesheet highlights Sharmas role as that of a conduit. "A meeting between Mr Rao and Mr Buta Singh decided that the money would be arranged and paid to the JMM MPs to vote in favour of the Congress government during the July 28 no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. This was carried out by Mr Satish Sharma," it points out. Adding that, "on July 24, 1993, during a party hosted by Satish Sharma at his official residence, some suitcases were brought in a Gypsy from his farmhouse." The following day, says the chargesheet, Sharma and Buta Singh visited Raos residence to finalise the deal.
Regarding the role of prominent business houses, it notes that industrialists like Mukesh Amb-ani (Reliance), V.N. Dhoot (Videocon), Shashi Ruia (Essar), Abhay Oswal (Bindal Agro) and Prithviraj Jindal (Jindal Saw Pipes) were frequent visitors to Sharmas official residence. Based on evidence provided by his private secretary, B.N. Safaya, the chargesheet points out: "From January 1993 onwards, these industrial houses sent money either to Satish Sharmas residence or B.N. Safayas residence." As for the amounts sent to Sharma between April 1993 and May 1994, the chargesheet lists Rs 1.5 crore (Bindal Agro); Rs 50 lakh (Jindal Saw Pipes), Rs 2 crore (Videocon), Rs 7 crore (Essar) and Rs 4 crore (Reliance).
The chargesheet also takes note of Sharmas humble origins from a tiny rented apartment in south Delhis Gautam Nagar not so long ago in 1982 to mansions in Greater Kailash and opulent farmhouses, along with a lavish lifestyle comparable to that of film stars. All within a span of 14 years.