| Tabrez being taken to court in Pune on Sunday. (PTI)
Jan. 4: The political fallout of the fake stamp paper scandal grew more pronounced today with another minister stepping down and investigators moving a notch closer to the first casualty, Chhagan Bhujbal.
Karnataka small-scale industries minister Roshan Baig has resigned in the wake of allegations of his involvement in the racket. The resignation came a day before the start of the Assembly session.
The minister’s brother, Rehan, had recently surrendered before the investigation team which accused him of renting out his premises to the alleged mastermind, Abdul Karim Telgi.
The tremors of the scandal continued to rock Mumbai, too, with the investigators summoning for interrogation former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Bhujbal’s nephew, Sameer.
Under fire over charges that he shielded top police officers linked to the stamp paper racket, Bhujbal had resigned citing an attack on a television channel by his party’s activists.
Telgi’s lawyer Abdul Sheikh had named Bhujbal and Roshan Baig but the politicians had questioned the credibility of the advocate.
The call to Sameer is being seen as a precursor to the probe eventually leading to the door of Bhujbal. Sameer, perceived to be Bhujbal’s Man Friday, has been asked to present himself before the special investigation team’s Worli office tomorrow.
This is not the first time that Sameer has been linked to corruption charges levelled against his uncle. His name figured prominently in the cash-for-postings scandal that hit the Maharashtra police department — then under Bhujbal — last year.
Sameer’s name again surfaced when an accused in the scandal exploded a letter bomb. Police officer Dilip Kamath had sent a letter to the governor that Bhujbal and his nephew provided protection to Telgi.
Himself in jail for links with Telgi, Kamath said Sameer asked him to keep quiet after he was suspended from the police force.
“Don’t challenge your suspension as it might lead to uncomfortable questions being directed towards my uncle,’’ Kamath quoted Sameer as telling him.
Bhujbal’s exclusion is the only condition Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has before the Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party joins the NDA. Bhujbal is in Kerala now for a “de-stressing session” at an ayurveda centre and could not be contacted.
Sameer will be quizzed by the investigation team’s chief, former director-general of police S.S. Puri. Bhujbal’s secretary S.K. Bankar has also been called to be questioned.
The investigators are expected to ask Bankar about a panel report that pointed fingers at former Mumbai police commissioner R.S. Sharma much before he was arrested for his alleged role in the scam.
Sameer is likely to be asked about his relationship with businessman Antim Totla, who reportedly knew Telgi well. Totla went through a lie detector test in Ahmedabad recently.
Telgi right hand
Telgi’s nephew Tabrez, who was arrested yesterday, has been charged under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and remanded in police custody till January 18.
The investigation team claimed that Tabrez was the “second most important” accused after Telgi.
Chief public prosecutor Raja Thakre, seeking Tabrez’s police custody, told a Pune court today that the accused was Telgi’s “main assistant and handled all the financial transactions”.
“With his arrest, I can say that most of the known group members of the Telgi gang have been nabbed in Maharashtra and Karnataka,” Thakre added.