When the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) detained Pakistani sufi singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan at the Delhi airport in February 2011 for not disclosing $124,000 he was allegedly taking out of India, it set off a chain of events that would become an election issue three years later, embarrass the Congress and cost a Doon School alumni association president his position.
Khan was in India to sing at the wedding of Pernia, the daughter of Moin Akhtar Qureshi, a meat exporter believed to be close to several politicians from the ruling party. Income tax authorities placed Qureshi’s phone under surveillance following Khan’s interrogation, a senior income tax official said on the condition of anonymity.
Cut to April 2014.
BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi dragged Qureshi into the electoral debate last month when he alleged that a leader with “close links” to 10 Janpath (Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s residence) had figured in Qureshi’s calls intercepted by the I-T department.
The department reportedly has over 500 hours of taped conversation, but no official was willing to come on record on the content. These tapes, the BJP has alleged, have information on hawala transactions running into hundreds of crores of rupees on behalf of politicians and bureaucrats.
Qureshi, who recently resigned as the president of the prestigious Doon School Old Boys’ Society following an I-T raid in February on more than a dozen premises associated with him, reportedly counts several Congress leaders and senior bureaucrats — many of them from Doon — among his close friends. He did not respond to several calls and emails from HT.
His old business partners in Kanpur and Rampur, where he entered the meat business with a small abattoir in 1993, told HT: “He suddenly acquired political clout in the past 8-10 years. He was financially well off earlier but became seriously rich only recently.” His rise coincided with the tenure of a former CBI director, who investigated several sensitive cases, including the 2G scam and Coalgate.
Qureshi owns a company, AMQ Agro, which exports meat, but the I-T department is probing if his declared income from this and about a dozen other companies is enough to support his lifestyle and assets. One of his offices, in Delhi’s Defence Colony, is located in a house owned by the mother of former CBI director AP Singh.
Qureshi, who leads a lavish lifestyle, owns a five-acre farmhouse in Chhattarpur that Elle Décor, one of the world’s leading home design magazines, featured on its October 2013 cover. His daughter, Pernia (29), is a regular at Page 3 parties and is often spotted at Indian and international fashion events with her mother Nasreen. “Her parties are networking grounds for the rich and the famous. Her father, though, stays away from them,” said a Page 3 regular.