Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal on Friday trained his guns on politicians and industrialists who have stashed black money in a foreign bank. In his fourth attack, Kejriwal used “information leaked by a first-time Congress minister” and targeted Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Congress MP from Unnao Annu Tandon, the Dabur family and Naresh Goyal, founder of Jet Airways, alleging that they held accounts in HSBC Bank’s Geneva branch.
He accused the HSBC Bank of being involved in money laundering and demanded strict action against it for encouraging kidnapping, corruption and terrorism in the country.
During a press conference in Delhi, Kejriwal also raised questions about president Pranab Mukherjee, who, as Union finance minister, planned amnesty for all 700 Swiss account holders.
His allegations, however, were met with stern denials. Spokespersons of all corporate entities pointed out that the allegations were baseless.
The Kejriwal-led India Against Corruption (IAC) has threatened protests outside Sea Wind at Cuffe Parade and Antilla — the Ambani residence — and other Reliance properties and offices across the country.
Kejriwal on Friday alleged that these entities were the face of “crony capitalism” who had collectively accumulated nearly $500 billion, according to records the government received in July 2011. The records were of December 2006 when details of these accounts were reportedly leaked by an insider to the French and German governments.
While the US moved swiftly to bring the alleged tax evaders to book, Kejriwal alleged that the Indian government dragged its feet and even “lied in Parliament” in a specific response to CPM Lok Sabha member Gurudas Dasgupta.
According to him, the government did not touch any of the “big names” on the list and only about 100-150 were raided, he alleged. “Why weren’t the others raided by the IT department and why didn’t the government seek all their accounts?” Kejriwal questioned.
The political activist also alleged that Annu Tandon, whose husband Sandeep Tandon worked closely with the Reliance Group before he passed away, had accounts in HSBC’s Geneva branch. Sandeep, a former IRS officer, raided the Reliance Group for alleged tax evasion in the 1980s. He soon joined the group after resigning from service and rose through the ranks rapidly to become a trusted lieutenant of Dhirubhai Ambani.
Annu Tandon is now a Congress MP and her affidavit filed with the Election Commission of India before the 2009 general elections does not show any such account. She rejected Kejriwal’s charges as baseless, pointing out that her husband had passed away and she did not have any further comment to offer. She did not respond to an SMS from DNA either. She had served with the Reliance Group and is considered close to Mukesh Ambani.
The Ambani brothers and spokesperson for Jet Airways also rejected the charges. “Naresh Goyal never held any Swiss bank account as alleged by Kejriwal,” the spokesperson said. The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries said neither RIL or Mukesh have or had any “illegitimate” accounts anywhere in the world. A spokesperson for Anil Dhirubhai Amabani Group said Anil had no bank accounts with HSBC in Geneva. “It is regrettable that such baseless allegations are made by IAC at the behest of vested interests.”
HSBC also denied any such accounts while the Reliance Group pointed out that the bank had “apologised” earlier for claiming that Mukesh Ambani held an account with them. Some accounts were created by a foreign telecom company that was in a joint venture with the undivided Reliance Group leading to the confusion. In an official statement, the Burman brothers who head the Dabur group of companies said some accounts were created since they were NRIs and that they were all legal.
Kejriwal was unwilling to buy their claims. He said the finance ministry had selectively targeted individuals while leaving out the “big fish”. “Why did the finance ministry not raid the Ambanis or the others?” he asked.
Interestingly, the UK government started investigations into similar allegations against HSBC earlier this year.—With agency inputs