In a shameful revelation made by the Income Tax (IT) Department and Enforcement Directorate (ED) the former Jharkhand Chief Minister, Madhu Koda has been charged of money laundering and disproportionate income. The total sum involved in the whole financial fiasco is said to be upwards to INR 4000 crores. Koda was supported in running the “business” by his old friends and associates.
The IT department is interrogating four other co-accused in the case, including Basant Bhattacharya, R P Singh, B B Singh and Bhim Singh, all close aides of Koda and his associates, while his old time “buddies” Binod Sinha and Sanjay Choudhary are absconding.
The tale of Koda who was a daily wage earner before coming to politics and rising to the post of Chief Minister where he created this 4000 crore empire in a period of three years is a fascinating tale in itself.
An unlikely threesome has spawned one of India’s biggest political scams – a window grille-fixer-turned-CM and his two buddies, one who started off selling milk door-to-door and the other selling chewing tobacco.
If you divide the money allegedly made by Jharkhand leader Madhu Koda (39) and his two buddies, Binod Sinha (39) and Sanjay Choudhary (41) by the number of days Koda was in office as chief minister and as minister of mines in the BJP-led Arjun Munda government, it comes to a jaw-dropping Rs 3.6 crore a day. And this isn’t a figure being trotted out by Koda’s rivals. This is the official estimate of probe agencies on the basis of the riches they have been able to uncover so far to draw the contours of a massive political scam.
The IT department which had information about the group’s investments in iron and coal mining, steel, tourism and hotel business is now receiving anonymous emails detailing the group’s investment even in uranium and gold.
A senior I-T officer, who has been screening the emails for the last couple of days, revealed that the number of mails has already touched touched the 200 mark.
“The department received around 120 emails on Saturday alone. We have been provided vital information about the investments made and the source of money from the emails,” said the officer.
Working on such leads the IT department conducted raids on the premises of Balaji group in the well-known Zaveri Bazaar area, famous for bullion trade. In fact the business of the group was so discrete that the traders even in the same area has no idea about the other office of the group in posh Nariman Point area.
The group, set up in 1993 as a small bullion trading business, now has 10 companies in Mumbai, Noida in Uttar Pradesh, Surat in Gujarat and Dubai with a total turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. It began diversifying from 2006-2007 into realty, gold, diamond, jewellery and precious metals.
Balaji Group is also into ship management and manning. The shipping branch of the firm owns two dry cargo vessels. It also has a foreign exchange division.
Officials are also examining the involvement of other group companies, who they suspect were floated in 2007 with prime objective of money laundering. The other companies under the scanner include Balaji Bullions and Commodities (India) Private Ltd and Balaji Universal Trade Link Private Ltd. The IT department claimed that the group’s Rs 1,500-crore transaction was made since the two companies were incorporated.
One of the most shameful facets of the tale is that the state which has some of the best mines of Coal, Iron-ore, Copper, Graphite, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Asbestos, Mica, Bauxite, Manganese, Fire clay, among others has one of the lowest literacy and income levels in the nation. The state was created after dividing the erstwhile state of Bihar and has a predominantly tribal population. The state has some of the largest Indian operations of the iron and steel production like the Bokaro Steel Plant at Bokaro Steel City (operated by SAIL) and the Tata Steel.
The tales of a staggering sum of money, equal to nearly half the unfortunate State’s annual budget, being stashed away in instruments ranging from residential property in Delhi and Kolkata to mines in Liberia and two star hotels in Thailand, are the stuff of legends. If even remotely true, Koda should have a venerated place alongside the early ‘Nabobs’ of the East India Company. In time, once the irritating legal complications are out of the way — as they inevitably will because the law in India is never unduly harsh — Koda will have all the qualifications to become India’s first National Professor of Political Entrepreneurship.
If the five currency counting machines recovered from his residence are any indication they indicate the volume of “monetary traffic” on this nexus highway which was routed to buy the three hotels in Thailand, mines in Liberia, companies in Dubai, and much else in Indonesia, Laos and Malaysia to name a few.
Within days of taking office as CM in September 2006, Koda renegotiated and signed mining MoUs worth Rs 1,98, 362 crore (or nearly two lakh crore rupees!) with as many as 44 firms. Soon, his associates were buying up real estate and property in Jharkhand, Delhi and abroad, transferring hundreds of crores overseas by hawala, spawning as many as 25 companies in less than two years to give a new meaning to “India Shining!” and create an empire that could match some of India’s biggest business houses.
With the state elections approaching fast the parties who propelled his rise to the post of CM are now brushing of allegiance to the person they once supported. When Koda was appointed CM, he was an independent MLA. Political observers noted that the support of Koda was just a political game to keep the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) out of power by the Congress Party which was the leading partner of the ruling coalition at center.
As the head of a coalition Government that had been put in place to keep the BJP out of power, Koda took full advantage of the political cover provided by an indulgent UPA Government. Ranchi was constantly abuzz with small talk of the very effective ‘single-window’ clearance system Koda had initiated for anything to do with the State Government, but particularly mining-related matters. The bush telegraph invariably communicated tales of a Caligula-like dispensation in Ranchi but the custodians of national morality wilfully chose to look the other way, as they did during the 2G telecom scam.
One of Koda’s accomplice’s Binod Sinha is also a party to a Tractor Scam worth INR 3-crore.
Koda meanwhile got himself admitted to the Apollo Hospital on Tuesday, after complaining about high blood pressure, stomach ache and nausea, has been advised to stay in hospital for some more days.
The IT and ED officials are meanwhile ready to arrest Koda as soon as he is discharged from the hospital.
“We have managed to extract vital information from the four and are confident that this evidence will help to nail Koda and his associates in a court of law,” said a source.
As the state assembly elections are nearing much mud-slinging and more skeletons are expected to tumble out of the cupboards.