New Delhi, May 23: A gentleman today slunk out of the finance ministry’s North Block office using the back door. He is not going to return.
Gingee Ramachandran resigned as the minister of state for finance, a day after his first personal assistant R. Perumalswamy was arrested for accepting a bribe of Rs 4 lakh to get Anurag Vardhan, an Indian Revenue Service officer, a “favourable” transfer.
Shaken by the incident, the government was trying to get to the bottom of the scandal which is by no means a one-off incident. CBI chief P.C. Sharma briefed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy .K. Advani. Sources said Sharma informed Advani about some documents retrieved from the house of Krishnamurthy, the Chennai chartered accountant who acted as the go-between.
The CBI would like to question Ramachandran — a task that would have become easier with his resignation.
A nexus of touts, bureaucrats and ministry officials has emerged in the transfer-for-cash scam. CBI officials are now claiming that it is well known in the finance ministry and among power brokers that most transfers of revenue, customs and excise officials are fixed.
Postings carry a price tag, which fluctuates depending on the region. For instance, Mumbai will cost more than Calcutta or any other place.
One of Ramachandran’s predecessors was dropped from the ministry as there were intelligence reports suggesting he was making money from transfers.
An Indian Institute of Technology project associate, Padmanabhan, has become the fourth person in the scandal to be charged. He stands accused of taking Perumalswamy on a motorbike to Vardhan’s house to collect Rs 4 lakh yesterday after having fixed his transfer to Mumbai a day earlier.
Today, the CBI was searching another officer’s premises in Mumbai and Pune. This officer’s name figures on the transfer list of 54 deputy and assistant commissioners of income-tax issued by the finance ministry on May 21. These transfers were put in abeyance by finance minister Jaswant Singh on Thursday.
The Telegraph has a copy of transfer order No. 72 bearing file number FN. A 22013/2/2003 -Ad VI. Officers whose names figure on the transfer list are now being investigated to see if they paid to get a posting of their choice, sources said.
The CBI has recovered pieces of paper listing names of officers and areas they wanted to seek transfer to.
A Delhi court today remanded Perumalswamy in CBI custody for 10 days. Vardhan and Padmanabhan will be in police custody for four days. Krishnamurthy was brought this evening to Delhi from Chennai, where he was picked up yesterday.
The transfer-for-cash scandal has broken close on the heels of the Delhi land scandal, where even a high court judge, Shamit Mukherjee, was allegedly involved.
Dharambir Khattar, arrested in this case, had acquired such clout that he was allegedly manipulating judicial decisions.
The CBI today arrested Dharambir’s brother Devender on charges of purchasing 24 kg gold for Rs 1.4 crore to distribute as gifts to suspended Delhi Development Authority vice-chairman Subhash Sharma and others accused in the land scam.
The transfer scam has the potential of snowballing into a political controversy as large as Tehelka and the petrol pump scandals.
Political parties are putting pressure on the government to come clean.
The Congress said: “Everyone knows the status and power of a first personal assistant but no one pays him such large sums of money expecting him to sign the actual transfer orders. Such sums are only paid on the legitimate expectation that the minister concerned — in this case a minister of the ruling NDA government — will ensure that the quid pro quo receivable by the giver of the bribe shall positively be fulfilled.”