Dec. 19: Abdul Karim Telgi’s lawyer today sprang a surprise on Chhagan Bhujbal by painting him as the stamp scam kingpin even as the CBI pounced on the general manager of the Nashik press where the stamps are printed.
While Telgi took a lie-detector test in Bangalore, lawyer Abdul Rehman contradicted his client’s earlier claim that no minister was involved in the scam.
“I can take Bhujbal’s name without hesitation or fear because there is a lot of evidence against (Maharashtra deputy chief minister) Bhujbal and (Roshan) Beg,” Rehman said in Delhi after meeting deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. Beg is a Karnataka minister.
“He (Telgi) is too small a man to plan out a racket in such a large scale,” the lawyer added. “There are greater powers behind him. He is not the kingpin, which everyone has made him out to be.”
Rehman said in a statement that he had a document that detailed the involvement of both ministers. “I have with me the account in Telgi’s own handwriting, which he gave to me from his prison cell in Bangalore central jail.”
The lawyer also sought police protection from Advani, claiming receipt of threat calls from who he hinted were powerful politicians. “The deputy Prime Minister refused to discuss the legal aspects of the case but advised me to approach Delhi police or the court concerned for police protection,” he said.
Bhujbal, who was in hospital a few days ago after complaining of uneasiness and high blood pressure, appeared more uncomfortable than ever as he tried to mount a defence.
With the Opposition gunning for him on the last day of the Assembly’s winter session, the deputy chief minister said in Nagpur: “Can we take so seriously the word of a person who is representing the main accused in this case' This is part of a large political conspiracy to target me.”
“And I don’t even know if Rehman is actually Telgi’s lawyer,” Bhujbal added. “I am certain I will clear my name; people are now saying whatever they feel like.” The deputy chief minister also agreed for the first time to be questioned by the special investigation team (SIT) probing the case in Maharashtra or any other agency.
Referring to indicted police officer Dilip Kamath’s purported letter tarring Bhujbal, Shiv Sena’s Narayan Rane said: “But now we have Telgi’s own lawyer saying so decisively and openly that Bhujbal was the man over the scam. These people seem to have very strong evidence against him and the government should act urgently and firmly. Maharashtra ka naam badnaam kar diya inhone (These leaders have ruined Maharashtra’s image).”
Bhujbal, however, produced today another letter allegedly written by Kamath in which the officer, jailed for his links with Telgi, says he was part of an Opposition plan to malign the deputy chief minister. Both letters were handed to the SIT.
Beg, in Delhi for a Haj meeting, dubbed the allegation a diversionary tactic of the “Telgi group”. “I have maintained some standards in public life. I am innocent,” he said.
In Nashik, Ganga Prakash, the suspended general manager of the India Security Press, was arrested on the charges of helping Telgi and his associates acquire technical know-how for printing stamps and non-judicial stamp papers, bureau officials said. Prakash had allegedly sought Telgi’s help to get promoted as general manager in exchange for extending help at the press.
The sleuths claimed to have recovered Rs 1.86 lakh in cash and fixed deposits worth lakhs from Prakash’s house. After the morning-to-evening raid, the four-member CBI team from Delhi sealed the offices of the press, including that of assistant controller of stamps P.P. Kokane.