Hassan Ali walks around a free man. This Pune-based stud farm owner breeding horses has around US$ 9 billion stashed illegally in foreign bank accounts. The Supreme Court (SC) is hearing the case related to his activities. The judges are flummoxed. Evidence unearthed by official investigative agencies has suggested Ali’s links with gun running, money laundering and terror funding. His association with international arms dealer Adnan Kashogi, who in turn had links with Ottavio Quattrochchi, has also been established. Yet Ali has not filed tax returns since 1999 and has not been prosecuted.
The SC Judges asked:
“We are asking a simple question for a simple answer. Why no custodial interrogation of the people about which you have the information... What the hell is going on in this country… it is very unfortunate that the three key officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigating the black money scandal have been abruptly transferred midway into the investigation.”
The bewilderment of the judges is understandable. But they are unlikely to get any satisfactory answer to end it from the tongue-tied government officials who depose before them.
Their Lordships are advised to venture into the street and ask any passerby for the answer they seek and they will get it. The government is paralyzed against Ali because most probably it is a victim of blackmail. How so? Consider this. When the government’s failure to act against Ali started attracting notice and the ED was being compelled to act an event occurred. An opposition BJP MLA in the Maharashtra assembly produced a video tape in the House that revealed a meeting between Hassan Ali and Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s Political Secretary Ahmed Patel. After investigation it was confirmed by the State police that the meeting had occurred. After the video reached the opposition MLA he naturally went to town with it and laid it on the table of the House.
Why would Hassan Ali have admitted meeting Ahmed Patel? Simply because by doing it he sent a message loud and clear to the government: “Lay off, or I’ll squeal!” The message worked spectacularly well. The government became paralyzed against the money launderer.
Hassan Ali may not be alone in blackmailing the government. Consider the case of the prime suspect in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) scam, Suresh Kalmadi. The media went hoarse about his imminent arrest days ago. Then Kalmadi demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the CWG. He asked for a probe against the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and the Union Urban Affairs Minister Jaipal Reddy. Suddenly there is quiet. Days have passed and he is yet not arrested. Is it hard to conclude why?
The desperate attempts by the government to stifle the truth can only result in delay and not in denial. Too much information has already tumbled out for a fully successful cover up. The SC has demanded the government’s response on the Hassan Ali case by Tuesday, March 8th. Otherwise the SC indicated that it might order the custodial interrogation of Ali under the supervision of an officer appointed by the Court. The noose therefore is tightening around the UPA government’s neck. But a much larger question needs to be addressed.
If scamsters by spilling the beans about the foreign black money trail can coerce the government, what about foreign intelligence agencies that are undoubtedly better informed and better equipped to do that? Is the UPA government open to international blackmail? Could that explain the government’s inexplicably docile response to certain foreign powers despite being offered grievous provocation? That is the larger question that the Indian people need to ponder.