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Sting exposes Godmen, VHP calls it campaign

A covert investigation by news channel IBN 7, in collaboration with Cobrapost, exposes babas like Vedanti Maharaj, Pilot Baba and Guruvayur Surya Nambudiri who are ever ready to turn people’s illegal money into white.

india Updated: May 07, 2007 00:08 IST

A covert investigation by TV news channel IBN 7 in collaboration with Cobrapost has exposed babas who are ever ready to turn people’s illegal money into white.

The undercover team pretended to be representatives of a large corporate group that was looking to convert their black money into white and had therefore approached these babas.

In three exposes, the channel showed Vedanti Maharaj, chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust in Ayodhya, Kapil Advait, former wing commander who fought for India in the 1965 and 1971 wars and later became Pilot Baba and Guruvayur Surya Nambudiri, who is famous for making prophecies, were willing to do the conversion for a fee fixed as percentage of the amount to be converted.

The babas are shown offering to take the money from the corporate representatives and in return write them a cheque back for the same amount – making it look like they were paying the corporates for their services to their (babas) charitable institutions and organisations. The VHP, of course, reacted strongly denouncing the expose as an attempt to malign the sadhus and the Hindu community.

IBN said in a press release that it is a well-known fact that by investing money in charitable institutions one gets a considerate amount of tax rebate. What the babas asked for in return for helping them was a chunk of the rebate the corporates after making their so-called "donations".

Thousands put their trust in them. But few can imagine some of our country's revered Godmen are common criminals running very clever money laundering racket, the channel said.

According to the transcripts released by the channel, the conversation went thus:

Vedanti Maharaj: What percentage will I get?

CNN-IBN: Whatever you want.

Vedanti Maharaj: No, you need to tell me what I will get. Suppose you convert Rs 5 crore how much would I get?

CNN-IBN: Rs 1.5 crore.

Vedanti Maharaj: Ask for Rs 3 crore instead, and give me Rs 2 crore.

CNN-IBN: No, we need to keep a margin.

Vedanti Maharaj: Alright, you will need to give a discount..I do not need permission to use my Trust's funds. Let me consult my CA. Come to Ayodhya and I will get everything done there.

CNN-IBN: Do you head the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust?

Vedanti Maharaj: Yes but if we put your money in the Ramjanambhoomi Trust it can't be recovered.

Vedanti Maharaj's aide: Not a single penny. You will need detailed accounts for that.

Vedanti Maharaj: Because it's an international Trust.

CNN-IBN: Ramjanmabhoomi Trust?

Vedanti Maharaj: No the IB and CBI keep a watch on this Trust.

CNN-IBN: But your Trust is free of problems?

Vedanti Maharaj: No I made the Matri Sewa Trust for this purpose.

The CNN-IBN investigation team posed as corporate agents and approached Pilot Baba's henchman Jyoti in Delhi. The investigation team told him that it could convert Rs 10 crore of black money to white. Jyoti demanded Rs 30 lakh commission to fix a deal with the baba and a meeting with Pilot Baba was fixed.

Pilot Baba: "I will give you a cheque of whatever amount you need as long as you can convert it to white money."

CNN-IBN: Tell us what is the kind of deal that you would like?

Pilot Baba: It depends on the percentage of returns. I have been offered 20, 30 and 50 per cent in the past.

CNN-IBN: There is hardly any margin in 20 per cent.

Pilot Baba: That's for you to decide.

CNN-IBN: Will 10 per cent do?

Pilot Baba: No.

CNN-IBN: Not on ten?

Pilot Baba: Why take so much risk just for 10 per cent.. Companies from Japan and America want us to convert hundreds of crore into white money..We have access to politicians who give Rs 500 crore bring down governments and buy off MPs.

CNN-IBN: Tell us who all are special?

Pilot Baba: All of them.

CNN-IBN: As you told us ND Tiwari also puts money.

Pilot Baba: All of them whether it is Mulayam or Mayawati, everybody needs us.

Pilot Baba: I know Narayna Dutt Tiwari since long for the last forty years. Since Tiwari was on the streets. ND Tiwari, Murli Manohar joshi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee - I know them all since long.

The third Godman exposed in the Cobrapost and CNN-IBN investigation was Guruvayur Surya Nambudiri, who is famous for making prophecies.

But as it happened the man who claims that he can predict what the tomorrow holds, could not get over his love for money. And to make more money, he is even willing to convert black money into white.

When he said the Shankracharya would go to jail, he did. Guruvayur Surya Nambudiri Swami is known for his prophecies, and for his huge following in South India.

Swami's aide: Guruji wants to know what his share is. For instance, if you give Rs 1 lakh in black to the Trust, how much would be returned, and what percentage do you expect?

CNN-IBN: Swamiji may decide according to prevalent rates.

The Swami was told Rs 10 crore of black money had to be converted into white money. Tough negotiations followed.

Swami's aide: Guruji says that his ashram has a clean reputation for the last 25 years. If someone were to find out about our work, we would have to pay tax.

CNN-IBN: What do you want?

Swamiji: 25 per cent.

Swami's aide: At least 25 per cent.

CNN-IBN: Let us also make some profit out of this.

Swami's aide: You asked for 10 per cent, Swamiji put it at 25.

CNN-IBN: Let's close the deal at 15 per cent.

Swami's aide: 20 is final.

CNN-IBN: We are also agreed at 20 per cent.

Swami's aide: Is 20 fine?

Swami: Done.

CNN-IBN: We are supposed to pay the amount in black on behalf of the company.

Swami's aide: But you'll have to make the payment in Chennai. Payments in Chennai and in hard cash so that the Swami can stash away his own black income and evade taxes.

Swami's aide: Ensure payment in Rs 1000 rupee notes.

CNN-IBN: That won't be a problem.

Swami's aide: When do you want to convert the money?

CNN-IBN: Within 15 days.

Swami's aide: If you want a cheque, then you will have to wait for at least a month. The transaction would take a month, we were told. As the Swami-and his aide duo would need time to arrange fake bills and receipts.

Swami's aide: Swamiji says that if you give Rs 10 crore then after a month.

CNN-IBN: You will return Rs 8 crore by cheque.

Swami's aide: We will return it by cheque so that we may get time to circulate the funds to avoid taxes. We will return Rs 8 crore to you. Inform us of the next deal.