It was the Jeep Purchase Scandal that started it all back in 1948, and ever since our politicians have not disappointed. Scams have become an inseparable part of Indian politics.
But 10 years of the UPA government has set the bar rather high. The 2G Spectrum Scam, Coalgate and the Commonwealth Scam were hugely ambitious, even by Indian standards.
Therefore, as the 2014 elections draw near, The 545 presents a list of scams that you might have forgotten about, but should remember as you go out to vote.
Let us know if there are other lesser-known rackets that you think should be part of this unending catalogue of corruption. Email us at email@example.com or leave us a comment below.
1 The Chopper Scam, 2013 : Better known as Choppergate, the scam involved several politicians and defence officials who were accused of accepting bribes from AgustaWestland to sign off on a deal that would supply 12 helicopters to India.
Alleged bribe: Rs 360 crore
Accused: In March 2013, the CBI filed charges against retired Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and 14 others. The FIR also named Satish Bagrodia, brother of former Union minister Santosh Bagrodia, and Pratap Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director of IDS Infotech. The CBI is still investigating the case.
2 Railgate, 2013: On May 3, 2013, the CBI arrested former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s nephew, Vijay Singla, for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 90 lakh from middlemen representing Mahesh Kumar, a member of the Indian Railway Board. The money was supposedly in exchange for a higher ranking position on the Railway Board for Kumar. Bansal was forced to step down on May 10, 2013.
Alleged bribe: Rs 10 crore
Accused: Vijay Singla, Mahesh Kumar, Narayan Rao Manjunath, MD of G G Tronics India Pvt Ltd, and the alleged middlemen: Sandeep Goyal, M V Murali Krishan and C V Venugopal. Bansal is a key witness in the case.
3 The Tatra Truck Scam, 2011: Top officials in the defence ministry and heads of Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML), a public sector undertaking, allegedly siphoned off Rs 750 crore in bribes and commissions over the past 14 years while purchasing parts for Tatra trucks. For more than a decade, BEML flouted the defence ministry’s guidelines and sold Tatra trucks to the Army at an inflated price.
Alleged bribe: Rs 750 crore
Accused: The CBI registered a case against Ravi Rishi, whose company Vectra owned Tatra, and other unnamed officials in the defence ministry, the Army and BEML for criminal conspiracy, cheating and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The BEML chief, VRS Natarajan was booked in April 2013.
4 The Adarsh Housing Society Scam, 2010: The Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society in Mumbai was originally meant to be a six-storied building for Kargil war veterans and war widows. But it morphed into a 31-storey highrise, occupied by top politicians, bureaucrats and military officials who were allegedly allotted apartments at artificially lowered prices.
Alleged bribe: Unknown
Accused: An inquiry by the CBI, the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate unearthed the involvement of former Maharashtra chief ministers Sushilkumar Shinde, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan (who resigned following the allegations). A judicial report in April 2013 indicted all three chief ministers, in addition to two former urban development ministers — Rajesh Tope and Sunil Tatkare — and 12 top bureaucrats.
5 The Hawala Scam, 1991: It began with the arrest of a member of an alleged terrorist outfit, but the investigation that followed led to a raid on the house and businesses of the Jain brothers, a Delhi-based family of “hawala” brokers. Evidence emerged that the “hawala transactions” — an unofficial transfer of money involving middlemen — had included large payments made to the country’s top politicians. The Jain brothers’ supposed links to terror groups only made the allegations worse.
Alleged bribe: Rs 1,000 crore
Accused: Major political leaders including LK Advani, VC Shukla, P Shiv Shankar, Sharad Yadav, Balram Jakhar, and Madan Lal Khurana faced serious allegations. However, no one was convicted as the “hawala” records were judged as insufficient evidence in court.
6 The Cash-for-Votes Scandal, 2008: The United Progressive Alliance, allegedly bribed MPs from the Bharatiya Janata Party to survive a no-confidence vote on 22 July, 2008. The UPA won the vote but its success was marred by three BJP MPs, including Ashok Argal, waving bundles of cash during a parliamentary debate, accusing the government of attempting to buy either their vote or abstention.
Alleged bribe: Rs 50 crore
Accused: Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh, his aide Sanjeev Saxena, LK Advani’s aide Sohail Hindustani and Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activist Sudheendra Kulkarni, among others. Except Saxena who is awaiting trial, the rest were released under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
7 The Bellary Mining Scam, 2008: This scam in Karnataka involving the brothers G Karunakara Reddy and G Janardhana Reddy, both mining barons in Bellary, subsequently led to the resignation of former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa.The two brothers had allegedly paid big money to bag contracts for Obulapuram Mining Company, the mining venture owned by them.While the exact amount paid by the two in kickbacks remains unknown, the Karnataka government reportedly lost Rs.16,085 crore.
Alleged bribe: Unknown
Accused: A report published by Justice Santosh Hegde, the former Lokayukta of Karnataka, said Yeddyurappa and his family accepted bribes in the form of donations to their trusts in exchange for issuing illegal third-party mining leases.
8 The Saradha Group Chit Fund Scam, 2013: The financial scam was exposed after the collapse of a Ponzi scheme being run by the Saradha Group. A consortium of companies in West Bengal, it was allegedly running various fraudulent investment schemes (popularly known as ‘chit funds’).
Money: Loss of Rs 300 crore to over 1.7 million depositors
Accused: In a letter to the CBI, the group’s chairman, Sudipto Sen,admitted that he had paid large sums of money to several politicians. He also said that he had been forced by Trinamool Congress leader Kunal Ghosh into investing in media ventures that were making losses, and then blackmailed into selling one of those at a price below the market standard. Sen and his aide Debjani Mukhopadhyay were both arrested.
9 The Taj Corridor Case, 2002-2003: The Bahujan Samaj Party allegedly embezzled money in the Taj Corridor project, a plan to upgrade tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal during Mayawati’s tenure as Chief Minister.
Money Involved: Unknown
10 The NRHM Scam in Uttar Pradesh, 2013: Top politicians and bureaucrats allegedly siphoned off Rs10,000 crore from the National Rural Health Mission, a central government scheme for improving healthcare delivery in rural areas.
Loss to the exchequer: Rs. 10,000 crore
Accused: The CBI is investigating several former ministers from the Bahujan Samaj Party, the ruling party at the time.
11 The Scorpene Deal Scam, 2006: After the Indian government sealed a Rs 18,798 crore deal with Thales to buy six Scorpene submarines in 2005, it was alleged that the French multinational paid Rs. 500 crore to government officials as kickbacks. And after some journalistic muck-racking, there were also indications that the deal had links with the infamous Navy War Room leaks case.
Alleged bribe: Rs. 500 crore
Accused: The amount was channeled via Abhishek Verma, a middleman. Also accused was Ravi Shankaran, related to the then Chief of Navy Staff Arun Prakash (also the key accused in the Navy War Room leaks case). The CBI eventually found no evidence.
12 The Barak Missiles Scam, 2008: A defence scam, where allegedly that several politicians had received kickbacks during the purchase of the Barak 1 Missile Systems from Israel.
Alleged bribe: Unknown
Accused: Among the accused were Samata Party ex-treasurer R.K. Jain, politicians George Fernandes and Jaya Jaitley, and arms dealer and ex-naval officer Suresh Nanda, the son of S.M. Nanda, former Chief of Naval Staff. After investigating for over 7 years, the CBI closed the case in December 2013 and filed a closure report citing lack of evidence.
A former crime reporter from New Delhi, nowadays Indrani Basu can be found stopping people on New York streets and asking them their life histories. Tell her yours @IndraniBasu88