Appraisal report after raids: Birla text message shows payoff to ‘Gujarat CM’ in 2012, says Arvind Kejriwal

The appraisal report, forwarded to the IT Department’s assessment wing in February 2014, was first reported by The Indian Express (January 15, 2015).

Written by Ritu Sarin , Pragya Kaushika | New Delhi | Updated: November 16, 2016 8:26 am
arvind kejriwal, narendra modi, kejriwal modi black money, Aditya Birla group, Bribe to modi, kejriwal modi demonetisation, demonetisation news, kejriwal demonetisation, india news Kejriwal in the Delhi assembly on Tuesday. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

CRITICISING the government’s move to scrap 500 and 1000-rupee notes, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Tuesday alleged in the assembly that Income Tax papers show a 2012 text message from an Aditya Birla Group executive that money was paid to the “Gujarat CM” which he said was a reference to Narendra Modi.

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“The Aditya Birla group was raided in October 2013. Income Tax department picks up all the documents… Shubhendu Amitabh was group executive of Birla group… his laptop, Blackberry was checked. One entry was found that stated Gujarat CM Rs 25 crore. Gujarat ke CM ke aage 25 crore and (in) brackets it was written that ‘12 done’ and rest? Gujarat CM kaun the us time…Narendra Modi ji 2012 mein (Who was Gujarat CM that time, Narendra Modi),” said Kejriwal.

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Denying the charge, the BJP said that these reflected the Delhi CM’s “mental bankruptcy” and “nervousness” in the face of popular support for the Prime Minister’s move to clean up black money.

ALSO READ: Demonetisation appears to be carpet bombing, not surgical strike: Supreme Court

Kejriwal’s allegation comes the day senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan filed an application in the apex court alleging a “cover-up” following raids conducted by the Income Tax Department against Aditya Birla Group companies in October 2013 and on the Sahara India Group in November 2014.

On October 25, Bhushan sent his complaint to all investigating agencies and the two retired judges heading the Special Investigating Team on black money.

In his complaint, Bhushan annexed 61 pages of the appraisal report of the Birla case which runs into 1,287 pages. The lawyer had previously raised the issue of the Birla diaries and raids before the apex court bench hearing the coal block allocation case with the matter being referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The appraisal report, forwarded to the IT Department’s assessment wing in February 2014, was first reported by The Indian Express (January 15, 2015).

The reference of an entry: “Gujarat CM – 25 cr (12 Done – rest ?)”, which Kejriwal made in the Assembly today, is from a 223-page annexure contained in the appraisal report each page of which contains e-mails and copies of Blackberry Messenger (BBM) messages recovered from the laptop of Birla’s executive president, Shubhendu Amitabh.

It was from Amitabh’s office in New Delhi that the IT Department had recovered Rs 25.13 crore during their search and the probe began.

This particular entry was made on November 16, 2012, and a BBM backup of the message was also recovered from Shubhendu Amitabh’s computer. There are several other such cryptic entries and the Birla official was subsequently questioned on each one in the 14 times he was called for questioning.

A scrutiny of the relevant pages of the appraisal report shows that Amitabh was questioned about the November 16, 2012 entry on November 30, 2013, six weeks after the IT raids. His testimony on oath which forms part of the hand-written volume of the appraisal report states that “Gujarat CM” actually stood for “Gujarat Alkali Chemicals” and that this BBM message, along with several such others formed part of his “personal random notes.”

This is what Shubhendu Amitabh told IT officials: “These were purely personal notes, not meant for SMS or mail transmission. I noted the three points purely for my personal consumption. And, the first note is only to note for my knowledge and consumption — a business development at Gujarat Alkali Chemicals, a company engaged in caustic soda as well…”

Shubhendu Amitabh was asked a supplementary question: “As stated by you in the above answer Gujarat-CM stands for Gujarat Alkali Chemicals. In this context please state, have you used similar abbreviations in respect of Gujarat Alkali Chemicals any where else in your notes or any other place? ..was this abbreviation used by any other person in your group while referring to Gujarat Alkali Chemicals?’’ The Birla official’s answer: “In personal diaries and notings, I use a lot of abbreviations. I cannot vouch for others in my group…”

As far as the Sahara documents are concerned, The Indian Express has learnt that this appraisal report too, runs into thousands of pages and several volumes and has a few months ago, been routed to an assessment officer in New Delhi.

What is crucial are 11 pages of alleged “payment entries”— to leaders across the political spectrum including those from BJP, Congress, JD(U), RJD, SP, NCP, JMM, JVM, TMC, BJD, BKU, Shiv Sena and LJP.

Some pages are typewritten in English and Hindi and others have been hand-written. Only one hand-written sheet has payment dates of 2010 against the entries. The “Sahara diaries” also include five pages of “received details” of incoming payments in a tabular form with “cash expenditure details” both made between 2013-2014.

It is understood that among the agencies Bhushan’s complaint went to, the Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT) has filed it “in a routine manner” along with such others they receive. The complaint along with some pages of the recovered Sahara and Birla documents was also sent by him to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC); the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI); the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the SIT.

Officials in the SIT who are understood to have spoken to CBDT/Finance Ministry officials after the receipt of the missive from the senior Supreme Court lawyer are said to have been informed about the Birla case being heard by the Settlement Commission.

In the Settlement Commission, Birla officials have filed three petitions, in July 2014; in October 2015 and the last one in March 2016. While the first one was rejected, the next two were admitted but with a dissenting note from the Vice Chairman for the last one and was thus, not unanimous. CBDT officials said that as in other such cases, they are likely to oppose any pleas made by the company before the Settlement Commission.

The SIT officials have also reportedly been informed that some among the Sahara “diary” pages and entries could be “fabricated” and that they have a statement on oath (as part of the appraisal report) from a Sahara official that the payment entries were made by him to put other company officials in a fix.

When questioned about any intervention from their side on allegations of a cover-up in the two IT cases, an SIT official told The Indian Express last week, “We have been informed that while the Birla case is going through the usual course of assessment and appeal, part of the documents recovered during the raid on Sahara India could have been fabricated. In any case, this is not in our jurisdiction and thus we have not made any fresh intervention.”

Congress tried same allegation and failed: BJP

Shrikant Sharma, BJP National Secretary: Kejriwal has raised baseless and senseless allegations. The BJP vehemently denies them. It is an example of his mental bankruptcy and it reflects his nervousness as Modiji’s move has gained popular support. He can feel the earth is moving beneath his feet. His frontal organisation, the Congress, also tried to level the same allegation against Modi to block his candidacy as Prime Minister, but failed.

Pragnya Ram, Aditya Birla spokesperson: No comments, the case is sub judice.