BJP alleges case of bribery against Virbhadra; he threatens to sue

Showing what he called were the IT returns of Singh for 2008-09,2009-10 and 2010-11,Jaitley said the PCC chief had shown his orchard income as between Rs 10.5-25 lakh.

Written by Express News Service | Shimla | Published: October 24, 2012 1:48:29 am

Seeking to further pressure the Congress on the issue of corruption in the run-up to the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh,the BJP Tuesday accused former chief minister and state Congress chief Virbhadra Singh of bribery,money laundering and forgery and demanded a probe by a special investigation team.

Singh denied the allegations and dared the BJP to approach law-enforcement agencies to seek a probe. He also threatened to take legal action after the November 4 elections.

Singh,a former union minister who is already facing corruption charges,was questioned by the BJP over what the party alleged was a quantum increase in his income from an apple orchard,the Rs 5-crore single-premium LIC policies he bought,and his revised tax returns.

Addressing a press conference in Shimla,senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the charges against Singh were “an open and shut case of bribery,money laundering and forgery”.

Asking for a probe by a special investigation team of “honest police officers”,Jaitley said a Shimla-based LIC agent,Anand Chauhan,had opened a “ghost account” in Punjab National Bank and received huge payments approximately to the tune of Rs 5 crore during 2008-09,2009-10 and 2010-11.

“The amount deposited in cash was later paid towards single-premium LIC policies bought in the name of Virbhadra Singh,Pratibha Singh,son Vikramaditya and daughter Aprejeta Singh…The details of these LIC policies are also shown in the affidavit which Virbhadra Singh has filed along with his nomination papers,” Jaitley said.

The BJP leader said it was the bank that had alerted the Income Tax department about the payments into Chauhan’s account,and during subsequent questioning,the agent had said he handled the LIC policies of Singh and also his orchard. To escape culpability,Jaitley alleged,“Chauhan and Virbhadra Singh signed a backdated agreement wherein Chauhan (would) manage his orchard at village Damrali at 2 per cent commission charges on the income from the orchard.”

However,the BJP leader said,Singh already had an agreement with Bishambar Das of village Dansa (in Shimla district) to manage the orchard for an annual payment of Rs 10.5 lakh.

Showing what he called were the IT returns of Singh for 2008-09,2009-10 and 2010-11,Jaitley said the PCC chief had shown his orchard income as between Rs 10.5-25 lakh. Later,however,he had revised the returns. “In the revised returns,the income from the orchard took a jump to Rs 2.21 crore,Rs 2.80 crore and Rs 1.50 crore respectively,” he said. Calling it a watertight case,Jaitley said the CBI couldn’t be entrusted with the probe as its track record was not good.

Singh,however,sought to dismiss the allegations as imaginary. “BJP senior leaders,especially Jaitley,seem to know more than me about my IT returns. Their information appears to be imaginary and factually incorrect,” he said in a written statement,adding that information about IT returns cannot be accessed even under the RTI without the consent of the assessee.

Singh said he had filed his returns for 2011-2012,supported by vouchers and receipts,and these were “true and factual”. Singh pointed out that he had himself sought a CBI inquiry into the other corruption issue dogging him — the Ispat Industries pay-off,“in which I had nothing to do”. Singh is accused of being the ‘VBS’ mentioned in Ispat’s diaries as being the recipient of Rs 2.28 crore payoff from the company. The diaries had been seized during an IT raid.

LIC agent Chauhan too denied the BJP charges and called the entire episode a political conspiracy ahead of the elections.

“Virbhadra Singh is being targeted by political opponents,especially the BJP,because of the elections. Neither he nor I have committed any irregularities in getting the insurance policy for him and his family members. All charges of bogus accounts and inflated orchard income are baseless,” said Chauhan,known to be a close supporter of Singh and also linked to other state Congress leaders.

Asked about Jaitley’s allegation that he had excess income running into crores earned from his apple orchards,Chauhan said: “I have only a few hundred apple trees and I earn in lakhs. Virbhadra Singh has thousands of apple trees,his income is in crores. No one should have any doubt about it.”

In a December 2011 statement to the Income Tax department,Chauhan has said that he had signed an agreement with Singh in June 2008 to manage his orchard spread over 105 bighas of land. In the statement,Chauhan has detailed the expenses he incurred in managing Singh’s orchard which had 3,200 apple trees. He has also claimed he bought the insurance policies for Singh and his family through the money earned from the farm.

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