Former Karnataka minister and senior Congress leader R Roshan Baig, among 16 MLAs of the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition who have resigned since July 6, sending the coalition into turmoil, was detained at Bengaluru airport on Monday night by a special investigation team (SIT) probing the alleged multi-crore IMA Group Ponzi scam.
Baig was released by the SIT on Tuesday after questioning and has been asked to appear before the agency on July 19.
“I wanted to fly to Pune but due to some confusion they thought that I am running away. Some people played mischief,” Baig claimed.
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy has linked the legislator’s attempt to leave Bengaluru to the BJP’s efforts to win a tight trust vote in the Assembly, scheduled for July 18. He alleged that Baig was on his way to Mumbai to join the 13 rebel MLAs there.
Denying the accusations, the BJP stated: “Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is using state machinery to save his government. Mr Roshan Baig was given time till 19th July to appear before SIT. This shows how the state is blackmailing and treating their own MLAs.”
Baig, 65, was scheduled to fly on a chartered aircraft to Pune with an aide of Karnataka BJP chief and former CM B S Yeddyurappa, police sources said, quoting a passenger manifest for the chartered aircraft.
The BJP has denied the presence of Yeddyurappa’s secretary N L Santhosh on the Pinnacle Air four-seater aircraft that was chartered to fly to Pune. According to officers, the SIT received a tip-off on Baig’s plans to fly out around 8.30 pm on Monday and stalled the aircraft at the airport.
Late Monday night, Kumaraswamy tweeted, “Today SIT probing the IMA case detained Roshan Baig for questioning at BIAL airport while he was trying leave along with Yeddyurappa’s PA Santosh on a chartered flight to Mumbai. I was told that on seeing the SIT, Santhosh ran away while the team apprehended Mr. Baig…. BJP’s Yogeshwar was present at the time. It’s a shame that Karnataka BJP is helping a former minister who is facing a probe in the IMA case. This clearly shows BJP’s direct involvement in destabilizing the govt through horse trading.”
But the BJP stated, “It is false that Yeddyurappa’s PA Santhosh was travelling along with Mr Baig. The CM is peddling fake news and misleading the state. It was only Mr Baig who was travelling and there was no second passenger. We demand a check of boarding passes and CCTV footage to put out the facts.”
Baig, who has been linked to a move to BJP for several weeks, was last month named by Mohammed Mansoor Khan, the founder of IMA Group, as one of recipients of funds from the firm, leading to eventual collapse of its Ponzi scheme. More than 40,000 investors have been affected as a result.
The SIT had earlier called Baig for questioning on July 11 and July 15 in connection with the alleged scam but had given him grace time on both occasions in what seemed part of a political strategy by the ruling combine to keep him with the coalition ahead of a trust vote in the Assembly on July 18.
The first SIT notice to Baig was served on July 9, shortly after he resigned from the Congress, adding to a growing number of rebels who reduced the coalition government to a minority through their resignations. According to sources, Baig subsequently met Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and assured support to the government in exchange for leniency in the IMA probe.
“We do not what prompted the MLA to decide to leave Bengaluru after having assured the CM of cooperation to protect the government,’’ a source in JD(S) said.