The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday attacked Congress chief Rahul Gandhi for his alleged links to a defence firm that got an offset contract when the Congress-led UPA was in power. Gandhi refuted the allegations and said he was willing to face any probe, but added that an investigation should also be ordered in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
At a press conference, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed to a media report to allege that Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were directors in Backops Services Pvt Ltd registered in India in 2002. He said a firm of a similar name was registered in the UK in which Rahul Gandhi and Ulrik Mcknight were directors.
It was an “influence-for-cash” company, Jaitley alleged. The FM said Mcknight was married to a Congress leader’s daughter and was part of Rahul Gandhi’s “social gang”. Gandhi and Mcknight registered the same London address, which Jaitley said was owned by Ajitabh Bachchan, brother of actor Amitabh Bachchan.
In 2009, Rahul Gandhi left the UK firm and the Indian company wound up in 2010 but his partner remained associated with different firms, Jaitley alleged. Mcknight won an offset contract with a French firm awarded an Indian Navy deal to build submarines, he said, citing the report. Jaitley said Rahul Gandhi’s was a story of a man who aspired to be a defence deal pusher and was now aspiring to be prime minister.
The Congress president rejected the allegations. “This has all been dealt with (already). Please take any investigation, any action you want. I have done absolutely nothing wrong. (But) please also investigate Rafale,” he said.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said he had sent a complaint to central probe agencies in December 2015, and insinuated that Jaitley blocked the probe. “Is this on part of Jaitley a prayashchit (penance) or credit grabbing after blocking the ED (Enforcement Directorate) from investigating my complaint on Backops money laundering?” Swamy tweeted.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal said it was an allegation that needed to be proved. Sibal released three video clips purportedly showing “government officials” who claimed they could get old notes exchanged months after demonetisation, and alleged that it was done at the behest of the BJP. The videos were apparently shot in 2017 by an investigative journalist. However, there was no authentication of the clips by the party or any other agency. No immediate reaction was available from the BJP.
The first video was shot in a car in Delhi on March 27, 2017. According to Sibal, a serving sub-inspector alleged in the clip that Piyush Goyal, who was BJP’s treasurer, regularly instructed security personnel posted at the BJP headquarters to let in specific vehicles without any checks. He also introduced the journalist to a couple of retired IAS officers who agreed to get the currency exchanged, Sibal alleged.
The Congress leader claimed the second video was shot in Delhi on March 27, 2017 and the same official discussed the exchange of notes with a face value of Rs 300 crore. Sibal claimed that in the third video from April 1, 2017, a government official said the new currency notes were printed in Moscow. Extra notes were printed, more than the value of demonetised currency, the Congress leader said.
Sibal said, if elected, the Congress would conduct an investigation into the matter. He termed demonetisation an “ill-thought” decision. “Demonetisation apparently was the biggest political scam India has ever seen. The victims were the hapless 1.25 billion people,” Sibal said.
Sibal said one of the objectives was to discourage the use of cash and check the currency in circulation to reduce flow of black money, but now cash was being used in a “big way”.
“Demonetisation allowed black money to be generated and stashed abroad which is reflected by the latest data released by Zurich-based Swiss National Bank (SNB), where money deposited by Indians rose over 50 per cent to 1.01 billion swiss francs (Rs 7,000 crore) in 2017, a year after the note ban,” he claimed.