New Delhi, Mar 21 (PTI): The Central Bureau of Investigation went on the trail of an imported-vehicles scam --- and promptly became every party’s punching bag after one of its search teams landed at the residence of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader MK Stalin just two days after the DMK pulled out of the ruling alliance at the Centre.
With Opposition leaders hinting at misuse of the CBI by the government, a stung Prime Minister Manmohan Singh distanced the government from the CBI action, saying it had “no role” in the development and was “upset” over it.
Stalin, 60, considered a political heir to 88-year-old M Karunanidhi, chief of the DMK, dubbed the CBI raid as a 'political vendetta' and said he would face the case legally.
The DMK, which pulled out of the United Progressive Alliance on Tuesday and withdrew its ministers on Wednesday, said the action was a “political vendetta”.
The CBI, stung by the attacks from all sides, tried to defend its action, saying that it was “strictly” in accordance with procedures and there was no intention whatsoever to target any particular individual. It had raided 18 locations at seized 17 vehicles.
The CBI team pulled out of the residence of Stalin, and its top brass even suggested that the team was never intended to go inside the residence.
The CBI came out with a statement explaining why the searches were carried out in a case of imported vehicles registered on Thursday.
It said that a case had been registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code including criminal conspiracy, forgery, cheating and abuse of official position.
It pertains to a complaint that about 33 vehicles had been imported in Tamil Nadu and some of these may have been subsequently sold in violation of import provisions causing loss of up to Rs 48 crore to the exchequer, the CBI said.
The case has been registered against an importer and a senior intelligence officer of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) who allegedly did not take any action even after identification of vehicles at the premises of certain users and unknown others.
During the searches conducted at 18 locations on Thursday, 17 imported cars have been located and seized, the statement said and added that searches are continuing.
“CBI wishes to clarify that the operation was strictly in accordance with procedures and there was no intention whatsoever to target any particular individual,” the statement said.
Union Ministers P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath “strongly disapproved” of the agency's action while the Opposition accused the government of misusing the CBI.
The Bharatiya Janata Party said the CBI action is an example of “blatant” misuse of power by the UPA government for its survival and proves that it uses the probe agency to muffle allies who are walking out of the ruling coalition.
The issue was also raised in Parliament with BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu alleging that the party which withdrew the support to the UPA Government was raided by CBI and said it meant the government “controlled” CBI.