Till Monday this week, not many people outside Bairagarh town in Bhopal had heard about Sushil Vaswani. Even in Bairagarh, he was known as the former chairman of Mahanagar Nagrik Sahkari Bank and a BJP leader who wielded some clout.
All that, however, changed on Tuesday, when income tax (I-T) sleuths carried out searches at his residence, hotels and other business establishments. The immediate trigger behind the raids, source said, was specific intelligence inputs about huge amounts of demonetised currency having made way into the Mahanagar Nagrik Sahkari Bank. Vaswani had founded the bank in 1992 and remained its chairman for more than a decade. His wife Kiran is the current chairperson of the bank that has several some RSS and BJP leaders in its board of directors.
As details started tumbling out, what surprised many was how a man, who was a bus conductor till 1972 with the now defunct Madhya Pradesh State Transport Corporation, accumulated such huge wealth in just over two decades.
According to sources, Vaswani had lost his bus conductor’s job in 1972 owing to some financial irregularities.
Vaswani, son of an RSS worker Narayan Das Vaswani, joined BJP in 70s. He also started taking up contracts for government supplies.
Soon after the BJP came to power in 2003, Vaswani was appointed as the head of Madhya Pradesh Awas Sangh for a period of three years. The post granted him the status of minister of state. He is considered close to state revenue minister Umashankar Gupta and former chief minister Babulal Gaur.
Talking to the Hindustan Times, a BJP leader said Vaswani was probably rewarded with the positing in Awas Sangh considering the support he provided to the RSS for over two decades. That, however, remains the only political posting that Vaswani ever got, the leader added.
At present, Vaswani, his wife Kiran and some other family members run a business empire spanning from cooperative banks, marriage gardens, hotels to automobile showrooms, construction and heavy equipment trade. He reportedly owns three hotels in Bhopal.
Coop bank was on I-T radar
According to sources, the cooperative bank set up by Vaswani was under scanner since the third week of November. There were specific intelligence inputs with the I-T department about huge volumes of defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes having made way into the bank post demonetisation on November 8. There were also inputs about the “parked demonetised currency” being diverted to varied business interests of the Vaswanis.
On Tuesday, when I-T department started its search and survey operations, their primary focus was on around 100 accounts which were opened at the cooperative bank between November 10 and 15, a senior official told HT. The bank has more than 10,000 accounts.
Also under the scanner were some accounts that saw frequent transactions post demonetisation.
“Once we get to those holding these accounts, we will be able to ascertain the source of heavy sum parked in the bank between November 10 and 15,” said the official.
The RBI had on November 15 barred the cooperative banks from accepting deposits in demonetised currency.
Meanwhile, the raids unearthed huge amounts of bullion and jewellery parked in eight lockers held by Vaswani and his in Punjab National Bank, State Bank of India and at his cooperative bank, said I-T department sources. The value is still being ascertained
“We’ve seized several incriminating documents, many of which pertain to sizeable properties owned by the Vaswanis,” said the I-T official.
Make public accounts’ details: Cong
State Congress president Arun Yadav has demanded that chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan make public the details of the 100 accounts that were opened at the cooperative bank between November 10 and 15. He also alleged a nexus between the bank and at least half a dozen state ministers. Several BJP and RSS leaders, their relatives and senior government officials are part of the nexus, alleged Yadav.
Asked if party would act against Vaswani, state BJP chief spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya said, “Law will take its own course”.
One of the directors in the bank, RSS leader Shashibhai Seth said he was not present when the raids were conducted and hence was “not in a position to make any comment.”
Despite repeated efforts Vaswani and his wife couldn’t be contacted.
Search ops continue
The search and survey operation by the I-T sleuths at Mahanagar Nakrik Sahkari Bank and other business and residential premises of BJP leader Sushil Vaswani and his relatives continued on the fourth day on Friday. Sources said till now Rs 25 lakh in cash and over 2 kg gold has been recovered from different premises, excluding the cooperative bank.