New Delhi: Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal on Friday accused industrialists Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Jet Airways owner Naresh Goyal and Congress MP Annu Tandon of featuring among 700 Indians who allegedly siphoned crores of black money to the Geneva branch of HSBC Bank, which he accused of "openly and brazenly running a hawala racket in India."
Mr Kejriwal credited Friday's disclosures to a senior Congress leader. He described Ms Tandon as close to Rahul Gandhi and said it's worth examining if the money in her account -an alleged 125 crores - actually belongs to the Congress general secretary. She described the charges as "rubbish." (Kejriwal's allegation 'baseless & malicious': Annu Tandon)
Mr Kejriwal said that the Ambani brothers have 100 crores each in unreported bank accounts in HSBC in Geneva. Their firms issued denials, as did Mr Goyal's Jet Airways. (Read press statements from spokespersons of Mukesh Ambani | Anil Ambani | Naresh Goyal)
Last year, HSBC shared a list of 700 Indians who hold bank accounts in its Geneva branch. Mr Kejriwal said that as of 2006, the balance in these accounts added up to 6,000 crores.
Earlier this year, the government said that the owners of some of the 700 accounts had been taxed for Rs. 181 crores. Mr Kejriwal says they should been prosecuted instead of being let off lightly. "Manmohan Singh's government is the biggest threat to this country's economic sovereignty," he said.
Mr Kejriwal claims that the Congress whistle-blower he spoke to shared details for 10 influential Indians on the HSBC list. Mr Kejriwal, who launched a political party against graft last month, accused the government of in particular the former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee of protecting heavyweights like Mukesh Ambani.
In January this year, a report in the Economic Times said that HSBC had sent a written apology to Mukesh Ambani for mistakenly including his name on the list sent to India. (Read entire article here)
After it received the list of 700 account-holders, Mr Kejriwal said, income tax officials raided what he described as a cluster of smaller players, while exempting heavyweights like the Ambanis and Mr Goyal.
He went on to allege that Mukesh Ambani met with then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and persuaded him "not to raid Reliance Industries and that he was willing to pay up taxes to "buy peace".
Mr Kejriwal also said Mr Mukherjee incorrectly told Parliament in August this year that no MPs were on the list of account holders shared by HSBC. He said the information furnished to him shows that a Congress MP named Annu Tandon, who he described as close to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, had a bank balance of 125 crores in a Geneva account.
Mr Kejriwal said that Ms Tandon's husband, Sandeep, who has died, was once an income tax officer who raided Reliance Industries owned by Mukesh Ambani, but was later employed by the company. "Is this money (in Ms Tandon's account) Reliance money or Congress money or Rahul Gandhi's money?" Mr Kejriwal asked. (Watch: Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan's press conference)
Mr Kejriwal said that three of the people who were raided gave details to income tax officials that reveal that their statements show that in flagrant violation of the laws, HSBC representatives conduct home visits to help open a bank account in Geneva, and to deposit or withdraw cash. He demanded that the government arrest and question the management of HSBC in India.
This year, the Reserve Bank of India investigated HSBC after a US senate committee said the bank's Indian staff mishandled checks to ensure the global banking giant was following norms that guard against money-laundering and terror-funding. (Read: Cautious reply by HSBC)
Corporates deny Kejriwal's charges
Reliance clarified in a press statement that "neither Reliance Industries Limited nor Mr. Mukesh Ambani had any accounts with HSBC in Geneva."
"Reliance Industries Limited denies all allegations made by IAC against Reliance and Mr. Mukesh Ambani in their press conference... Neither Reliance Industries Limited nor Mr. Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate accounts anywhere in the world. (Read press statement from spokesperson of Mukesh Ambani)
A spokesperson for Anil Ambani categorically denied all allegations made by IAC against him in their press conference. The spokesperson stated, "Mr. Anil D. Ambani had no bank accounts with HSBC in Geneva. It is regrettable that such baseless allegations are being made by IAC at the behest of vested interests." (Read press statement from spokesperson of Anil Ambani)
Jet Airways, in a press statement, has said that suggestions by India Against Corruption that any unaccounted money stashed away in Swiss accounts is entirely false. (Read press statement from Jet Airways)
Annu Tandon, the Congress MP from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh has slammed India Against Corruption (IAC) activist-politician Arvind Kejriwal for what she termed as "frivolous and malicious" allegation of her stashing away Rs.125 crore in a Swiss bank. "It is a completely baseless and malicious allegation. I completely deny any corruption," she said. (Kejriwal's allegation 'baseless & malicious': Annu Tandon)