Investigations are on across four countries where the former first family of Haryana, the Chautalas, is suspected of owning properties bought with illegal payoffs, according to information made available to Hindustan Times.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has completed the first phase of investigations over three-and-a-half years and seven Indian states and is set to prosecute former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala (74) and his two sons, Ajay Singh Chautala (48) and Abhay Singh Chautala (46).
The charges: corruption and “amassing assets beyond their known sources of income”, an official euphemism for unaccounted assets bought from illegal payoffs.
The CBI investigation is complete — eight months before assembly elections are due in Haryana — and the agency is likely to soon seek government permission to prosecute the Chautalas.
This will be before the agency files a chargesheet, evidence that can lead to arrest, against them in a local court. Ten others are likely to be accused of "criminal conspiracy".
The Chautalas — and the trusts and societies run by them — own around 100 properties, including farm houses, holiday homes, shops, petrol pumps, land and flats, the investigations reveal, a highly placed government source, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, told HT.
The Bureau has concluded that Chautala and his sons amassed Rs 80 crore in disproportionate assets, said the source. In 2006, the CBI had claimed to have unearthed assets of the Chautalas worth over Rs 1,460 crore. Since properties were valued at their registered value, the actual cost could be at least five times this figure, he said.
"We will see what has to be done only after the CBI investigation report is out,” said Om Prakash, now a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Haryana and president of the Indian National Lok Dal. "If there will be any merit in their findings, they will proceed against us. But we will wait for the final report."
Elder son Ajay is a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) and Abhay is the president of the Indian Boxing Federation and a former Haryana MLA.
The CBI has sent over 36 “letter rogatories”, or requests for help, to various countries, including USA, the UK, some European countries and UAE to get details of the Chautalas’ overseas properties, said a Bureau source.
What now? That’s unclear since the CBI has similarily investigated many politicians over the years without a conviction (see box), except for former communications minister Sukh Ram who was sentenced to three years in jail in February 2009.
"It's very difficult to say what action the CBI proposes to take against the Chautalas,” said CBI spokesman Harsh Bal. “I can find out at what stage the inquiry is (and) inform you in due course."
HT’s source said the probe also “established” the alleged nexus between the Chautalas and property dealers and builders. “It's a foolproof case,” said the source.
There was no evidence against Chautala's wife Snehalata; Ajay Chautala's sons Dhushyant and Digvijay Singh and Abhay Chautala's sons Karan and Arjun Singh.
Chautala was Haryana CM from July 1999 to March 2005, and briefly between 1989 and 1990. His party was defeated by the Congress in 2005 Assembly elections.
The CBI had registered a first information report against the former CM in 2006 on the recommendations of his Congress rival, Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The Bureau checked the assets acquired by the former CM and his family between January 1993 to May 2006.
That year, the CBI had claimed to unearth assets of the Chautalas worth over Rs 1,460 crore in Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Chattisgarh and Chandigarh.
The Bureau now plans to ask the Income Tax Department to take action against the Chautalas and other accused under the provisions of Income Tax Act.
It may also recommend an “attachment”, or government takeover, of the Chautalas’ property.
The former CM and son Ajay are already facing another CBI case over the alleged fraudulent appointments of junior teachers in 1999-2000 in Haryana.