The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chandraswamy off St Kitts hook
- 'Mischief' blamed on consul officials

New Delhi, Oct. 25: A local court today acquitted self-styled godman Chandraswamy in the St Kitts forgery case that embroiled the country's top politicians in the nineties, but blamed two senior officers of the Indian consulate in New York for the 'entire mischief'.

Chandraswamy, the lone accused left in the case, was charged with conspiring to harm Janata Dal leader V.P. Singh's image by forging documents to show he was the beneficiary of a $21 million secret bank account in the Caribbean island. But special judge Dinesh Dayal said there is 'no direct evidence of the involvement' of the controversial godman.

Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and then minister of state for external affairs K.K. Tewary had been discharged earlier. The godman's aide, K.N. Aggarwal alias Mamaji, died during the trial.

Delhi High Court had quashed proceedings against another accused, K.N. Verma, former chief of the Enforcement Directorate, saying the CBI had not got the sanction to prosecute him.

The controversy started in August 1989 after the Kuwait-based Arab Times carried a report about the alleged bank account in the name of Singh's son Ajeya. After the Congress' defeat in the 1989 Lok Sabha polls, Singh became Prime Minister. The CBI registered a case in May 1990.

The CBI alleged that some political bigwigs had made an attempt in 1989 to sully Singh's image by forging documents to show that his son had a secret bank account with the First Trust Corporation Bank in St Kitts.

The documents bore signatures of the bank's managing director, George D. McLean, and the forged signatures of Singh, who had then emerged as the main political rival of Rajiv Gandhi, and Ajeya.

The CBI had said the then ED deputy director, A.P. Nandy, gave a report regarding the St Kitts bank account of Ajeya after visiting the island and the US.

But Nandy died before he could be examined. 'In the absence of Nandy's evidence, it cannot be said that Chandraswamy provided any assistance to him to go to St Kitts from Miami in (the) US or even that the accused had met Nandy in Miami,' the court said, terming Verma's statement in this regard as 'mere hearsay'.

During the trial, Chandraswamy had claimed the Singh government falsely implicated him as he was close to both Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao.

'I am happy that the way (the) V.P. Singh government tried to drag in Rajiv Gandhi's name did not work. I am more happy for Rajiv Gandhi,' he said after the verdict. 'The truth has triumphed.'

Although he exonerated the godman, the judge said 'we now know that the documents were forged and the statements were false', but the CBI had failed to complete the chain of conspiracy linking Chandraswamy.

The court, however, came down heavily on the two officers of the Indian consulate.

'The entire mischief of this case lay in the attestation of the forged (bank) documents by the Indian consul,' judge Dayal said.

'The unmindful act of Deepak Sen Gupta (then deputy consul general at New York) and R.K. Rai (then consul general) in attesting the documents without following proper procedures could have had far reaching consequences and affected the entire political scene,' he said.

The court noted that Gupta attested two statements of persons who never appeared before him to make those statements, while Rai attested copies of documents without having seen the originals.

'The false attestation of these documents by such senior officers resulted in giving a colour of authenticity to the whole story,' the court said.

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