Corruption cuffs on Modi-baiter officer
Officials of the state anti-corruption bureau (ACB), who picked up Sharma from his home, claimed they had fresh evidence of money laundering after the central Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached his properties worth Rs 1 crore yesterday. This is the first such ED case against a Gujarat IAS officer.
“Sharma allegedly received Rs 29 lakh from a private firm. The amount was first deposited in the account of his wife, then transferred to his account,” Ashish Bhatia, the director in charge of the ACB, said.
The 1984 batch officer, who is in his late 50s, had been suspended in 2009 over the case, which relates to grant of land at throwaway prices to a private firm when he was Kutch collector in 2004.
The suspension in 2009, when Sharma was Bhavnagar municipal commissioner, coincided with the alleged secret snooping on a woman architect. The officer had alleged that he was targeted by the Modi administration because he knew about the surveillance, and claimed he himself was spied upon.
News portals Cobrapost and Gulail had in the run-up to this year’s general election released CDs of purported phone conversations between Amit Shah, then junior home minister, and some police officers. The purported conversations referred to one “saheb”, which the portals claimed alluded to Modi. The BJP had said the snooping was ordered on the request of the woman’s father, who feared for her safety.
Sharma had moved court to register a case against the then chief minister over the snooping allegations but his plea was rejected. His elder brother, former IPS officer Kuldeep Sharma, had also been at loggerheads with the Modi government till he retired two years ago.
In the Kutch land case, Sharma is accused causing a loss of Rs 1.2 crore to the state exchequer by allotting government land to the private firm. According to ED sources, the losses occurred because the land was allotted at a rate of Rs 15-18 per square metre — a fourth of the prevailing market rates of Rs 60-70 per square metre.
The ED has seized a plot in Dehgam village near Gandhinagar and a portion of Sharma’s bungalow. “The land is worth Rs 65 to 70 lakh while the bungalow is worth Rs 1 crore,” said an ED officer.
Sharma’s financial transactions are under the scanner, and the ED is probing whether Sharma’s US-based wife received any favours from the private firm.
Bhatia, the ACB director, said this was “a case of allegedly taking bribes for extending benefits to a company”.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta
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