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Demonetisation Biggest Loot?

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Citing a “sting operation video” published on a little known website Tricolour News Network (www.tnn.world), Congress leader and former Law Minister Kapil Sibal in a press conference at Congress Headquarters on April 9 alleged that the government officials and BJP top leadership were involved in a Rs 3 Lakh Crore money laundering scam that exchanged demonetised currency notes months after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deadline for a commission of 35-40 per cent. The video played by Sibal professedly showed an illicit exchange of old Rs 500 notes for new Rs 2,000 notes by an official of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), reportedly identified as Rahul Ratharekar. The sting video shows Ratharekar claiming to an undercover reporter that officials drawn from 26 departments were engaged in the money exchange operation. Calling demonetisation “the biggest scam in the history of India”, Sibal also claimed that a large number of currency notes were printed abroad and were transported into India.

He also told the reporters that “nothing can be more anti-national than this” and targeted the Election Commission for not acting on the complaints. Sibal was quoted as saying, “The government, CBI, and ED will not arrest them, because ED [Enforcement Directorate] protects those who loot the country.”

“Mr. Modi started his tenure by fooling us and he is ending his five-year-tenure by traumatising us. He traumatised the people of this country, he has traumatised the poor of this country, he has traumatised journalists and his political opponents. He has used the agencies to target people who are opposed to him,” the former Law Minister said while introducing the sting video.

According to the video, a part of the sting operation that shows Ratharekar conversing with the reporter was shot at a Mumbai hotel in April 2017. RBI’s deadline to exchange old currency expired on December 31, 2016.

The video shows Rahul Ratharekar, with his wife by his side, was seen sitting in a suite in Hotel Trident, Mumbai, and explaining the operation. Giving details, he claimed that as much as Rs 3 lakh crore (three series of 1 lakh crore each) were printed abroad in duplicates, and flown to the Indian Air Force base at Hindon on the border of Delhi, from where the currency got transferred to the RBI. Ratharekar also named one Nipun Sharan from the PMO as the person coordinating the operation. Addressing the same clip, Sibal mentioned that the name is probably a pseudonym since his enquiries about a man with this name had been fruitless.

Naming Amit Shah twice in the same video clip, Ratharekar says that during the currency exchange, it was ensured that no intervention would be made by any other agency including the police. A team of 26 people from various departments had been formed to oversee this currency transaction, he stated. The video also highlights Rahul Ratharekar saying that he has been one of the best performing field supervisors for currency exchange. He also said that he has already completed more than Rs 20,000 cr worth of private transactions from CBD Belapur RBI in this short period. He also reportedly explained how ‘Reliance Jio data has been used and misused multiple times to show repetitive currency exchange transaction in RBI’. The video also states Ratharekar saying that ‘whoever tries to disclose this information or bring them out in open will be finished off ruthlessly’. Purportedly, Ratharekar also confirmed that ‘the new currency with the signature of Urjit Patel was printed six months earlier than November’ when Demonetisation hit the nation.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) general secretary DP Tripathi told Afternoon Voice, “It is really a very sinister scam. A high-level enquiry must be held because we all know the way demonetisation was implemented which caused serious problems for the Indian economy.”

Sibal, however, restricted himself from authenticating the videos showed by him in the press conference. He said that all the names and other details have been brought to the public domain and directed the concerned agencies to initiate a probe on the same. He called BJP President Amit Shah the kingpin of the entire scam. While such unauthenticated videos presented by the political parties come with a thought of dubiety, but the stated Tricolour News Network sting operation video comes with details of names, places of meetings, a defence serve and a particular air base making it stand out than many others and the nature of the allegations is not only serious but also around the government that claims to be running a zero-corruption government. The government’s decision of demonetisation was also claimed to have the same purpose of removing black money and teach a lesson to the culprits.

Another clip showed the involvement of an official of a private bank who was seen carrying out the exchange of old currency for new ones. Sanjay Shane, as identified in the video as the manager of the Fort branch of IndusInd Bank in Mumbai, is seen assisting the exchange of Rs 100 crore of old currency with new currency. As claimed by the video, the transaction takes place in a godown of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. The video shows Shane being told that there were clients waiting to exchange as many as Rs 320 crores.

Former BJP MP and now AICC observer Nanabhau Patole stated, “The new notes were not printed in India but from overseas. This is the first time in the history of the nation that its currency was printed in foreign countries. BJP is indulging in corruption. The government is not willing to give any reply to the questions raised by Kapil Sibal.”

Patole further added, “In an attempt to bring back black money, the government has turned black money into white. The statement issued by Rahul Gandhi that the Chowkidar will be imprisoned is true. Raghuram Rajan, Urjit Patel had to quit from their posts and many officials from NITI Aayog had to resign in BJP tenure.”

It is further reported that Kapil Sibal’s press conference on Tuesday was the second in a series on the issue of demonetisation. On March 26, Sibal had purportedly played out another sting by TNN, where an alleged BJP worker was involved in such an exchange of old currency. The allegations from Congress received sharp criticism from the government; however, it has denied all the allegations. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called the claims as ‘false’ and threatened legal action.

BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, “While making allegations against BJP, Congress doen’t provide any evidence. Congress has adopted the tactics of stone-pelters who throw stones and break glasses in Kashmir. After demonetisation more than 3,50,000 steel companies were shut. Kapil Sibal should answer, out of this, how many steel companies were owned by Congress? Congress should provide concrete evidence in support of its claim; till such time the party must stop its stone-pelting strategy. Congress is trying to create doubt in the minds of voters.”

Shiv Sena MP Prataprao Jadhav said, “Instead of making allegations Congress must provide evidence. They should declare that many accounts are there and how many funds have been transferred. Since the election is going on they are making such allegation which is unjustified.”

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