Hassan Ali Khan walks free. The Mumbai Sessions Court has found the evidence presented against the Pune-based alleged money launderer by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) too flimsy and self contradictory to deny bail. Hassan Ali had been under the ED scanner since 2007 when a raid had recovered documents proving a deposit of 8 billion US dollars in just one of several Swiss bank accounts illegally held by him.
The ED’s failure came in the wake of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s solemn assurance to the public that adequate steps were being taken to nail Hassan Ali. The FM was constrained to give this assurance after the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) stringent criticism against the government’s failure to act against Hassan Ali in relation to a petition filed against the government regarding black money stashed abroad. The SC criticism in turn was preceded by damaging exposures in the media related to the money launderer’s activities.
When Hassan Ali’s case first broke Mr. P Chidambaram was the Finance Minister. Later Mr Mukherjee succeeded him in the post which he holds currently. Between these two star Congress performers in the UPA government India’s biggest alleged money launderer continues to walk free after evidence against him was unearthed by the government over three years ago. The allegations against Hassan Ali were leveled by the government itself which subsequently failed to act against the alleged money launderer.
The government’s failure does not arise necessarily from mere incompetence. As had been pointed out earlier circumstantial evidence suggested that the government’s failure arose from a deliberate and motivated act of omission. Mr Ahmed Patel, the Political Secretary of Congress President and UPA Chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had met Hassan Ali. This fact first raised in the Maharashtra Assembly was subsequently confirmed by the state’s police authorities after due investigation. Despite repeated queries in these columns about the nature and purpose behind the meeting the government refused to offer any explanation.
In the light of this, should not both Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and Mr. Chidambaram resign from the cabinet? They will of course do no such thing. Does the President under oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and Law have any responsibility or not to ensure that those guilty of abetting the activities of India’s biggest ever money launderer are brought to book? The gravity of the case and the high stakes for the Congress Party cannot be minimized. In case it transpires that Mr Ahmed Patel’s liaison with Hassan Ali was related to the Congress Party using the latter’s services, and if the Congress Party has any illegal foreign bank account, the Election Commission is empowered to withdraw recognition to India’s oldest political party. So, it remains to be seen how India’s democratic system responds to the situation.
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