Contradicting TMC claims that its senior leaders could have been accepting “donation” in the sting video released by Narada News, the web portal’s CEO, Mathew Samuel, said the leaders were “taking bribe”.
“These tapes are genuine. The money which they were accepting was bribe and not donation. It is clear from the conversation. Besides, they never gave me any receipt, which they would have had the money been a donation,” Samuel said Saturday, holding his first press conference since the sting was aired in March.
He said he “deliberately” held back from paying the agreed amount of Rs 5 lakh in its entirety. “All of them called me up asking for the remaining Rs 1 lakh. They never knew where I had come from. They were only concerned about how much money I was offering. That is the sad part,” he said.
Samuel also wondered how TMC spokesperson Derek O’Brien, the party’s Rajya Sabha MP, knew about the seven calls he had made to Dubai on the day the tapes were released. Samuel had lodged a compliant with Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari as O’Brien had raised the issue in the Upper House. He has claimed that O’Brien has asserted that the money shown in the footage had come from Dubai.
“Yes, I had made those calls because my office is based in Dubai. The question is, how come he (O’Brien) knows about it? There has been no reply yet (from Rajya Sabha). I have also written to TRAI and the mobile operator. If I don’t get a satisfactory reply, I will get a case lodged,” Samuel said.
“I am willing to appear before any court, and so are my colleagues who had funded the operation. As a reporter, I can say that it is a water-tight story.”
He also criticised Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her government for taking varied stance on the sting.
“The CM had initially said that the tapes were doctored, then her leaders said that the money was a donation, later her party’s vice-president (Mukul Roy) said that the money had been taken for party-use, and now, her latest claim is that she would not have given tickets to contest the election had the tapes come out earlier,” he said.
Asked about the reason behind releasing the tapes just before the Assembly elections, Samuel said, “I had conducted the sting myself, with funds from some of my friends who wanted me to launch a news portal. I worked with Tehelka as its managing editor for two years, and quit my job there before releasing the tapes.”
Samuel said he had called up and thanked MPs Md Salim (CPM), S S Ahluwalia (BJP) and Adhir Chowdhury (Congress) for raising the issue in Parliament.