The BJP on Wednesday asked the Congress to come clean on the alleged involvement of its leaders in the Bofors scam, mounting an attack on the Gandhis’ and the party after a recent interview of a private investigator to Republic TV. Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani held a press conference at the BJP headquarters and demanded a clarification from the Congress on the interviews given by private detective Michael Hershman, who purportedly stumbled upon a Swiss bank account called Mont Blanc where the alleged Bofors bribe money was said to be parked.
The CBI on Wednesday said it would look into the “facts and circumstances” of the Bofors scam mentioned by Hershman. “The agency has learnt of the matter pertaining to Bofors aired on certain TV channels containing an interview of Michael Hershman,” CBI information officer and spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said in a statement. “Facts and circumstances as mentioned in the interview will be looked into….”
Irani claimed Hershman was asked by then Finance Minister V P Singh to look into the Bofors deal but was later offered a bribe and then given death threats when he stumbled on evidence of the bribe. She said the owner of a Pakistani-run Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which had been allegedly involved in money laundering and other financial crimes, or his representative met Rajiv Gandhi with a large suitcase. Following the meeting between Rajiv Gandhi and the bank representatives, the bank, which was shut after a CBI raid in connection with the Bofors deal, was allowed to open and its detained officials were released, Irani said.
“Who were offering bribe? Why did a Congress leader (Rajiv Gandhi) choose to silence his own minister (Singh)?For too long the Congress has kept conveniently quiet. It is time that it answers as to what was the role of Congress leaders then and now,” she said.
“Indians have long been asking for accountability on the Bofors scam. The revelation and the interview done by Michael Hershman brings to the forefront a few questions. Who is this gentleman who met Rajiv Gandhi…? What was that in the briefcase as described Michael Hershman. This is a question not only for investigative officers but for the Congress party to come clean on,” Irani said.
The Union Minister said the Congress leaders, including party chief Sonia Gandhi, have been shown to be too eager to grab undue benefits, whether it is a matter of an air ticket upgrade or a scam like the Bofors deal.
“…Hershman says arms dealer Adnan Khashogi had shown documents to implicate (former Prime Minister and the finance minister in Rajiv Gandhi government) V P Singh. Why would a Congress leader and then Prime Minister of the country choose to silence a minister in his own government? Only because V P Singh was carrying out investigation into Bofors,” Irani said.
In his interview, Hershman has expressed his willingness to testify and help Indian agencies on the Rs 64 crore Bofors gun pay-off scandal but the effort has to be a credible one. To a question, Irani said the Congress should have filed a defamation suit against Hershman if it believed he was wrong as she noted that Jay Shah, the son of BJP chief Amit Shah, had filed a Rs 100-crore suit against a news portal over a story on his business.