Jaitley questions Virbhadra’s defence on graft charges

New Delhi:  BJP leader Arun Jaitley Monday questioned former steel minister Virbhadra Singh over allegations that a private firm had made payments to “VBS” during his tenure.

Jaitley added that it did not matter how the Congress leader wrote his initials (VBS) but how the steel company which paid the money acronymed his name.

Targeting Singh, who is leading the Congress campaign in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh, Jaitley demanded a Special Investigation Team probe into revelations that Ispat Industries Limited had allegedly made payments to bureaucrats and officials in steel and coal ministries during 2009-10.

Jaitley said the media had highlighted that a steel manufacturing company was raided by the Income Tax Department and accounts of certain payments made by it to different departments of the government and individuals had been revealed.

A TV news channel Friday had aired a report alleging Ispat Industries Limited paid bureaucrats and officials in steel and coal ministries during 2009-10.

Jaitley said the payments relate to 2007-2010. “There are extensive payments to the staff of the ministry of steel. Amounts are stated to be spent on various public sector undertakings attached to the ministry of steel and to certain individuals allegedly holding key positions in the government. A news item appearing in the leading national daily has highlighted the most disturbing entry namely ‘Amount of expenses CBI, ED staff,'” Jaitley said in an article posted on the BJP’s website.

The BJP leader said the accounts have been in possession of the income tax authorities for the past 22 months and Central Board of Direct Taxes, revenue secretary and the finance ministry must have been aware of this.

“Has this fact been brought to the notice of the finance minister,” he asked. Jaitley said if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi do not speak out, “their silence will reflect on their condoning corruption”.

Referring to Virbhadra Singh’s remarks that he refers to himself as “VS” and not “VBS”, Jaitley said the issue is whether the steel manufacturer who maintained books of accounts refers to him as ‘VBS’ or not.

“Virbhadra Singh has denied that the entry ‘VBS’ refers to him. He has alleged that he writes his initials as ‘VS’ and not ‘VBS’. He has pleaded ignorance about this entry and alleged that the BJP could be behind this exposure. Virbhadra Singh is wrong on all counts. The issue is not whether he refers to himself as ‘VS’ or ‘VBS’. The issue is whether the steel manufacturer who maintained these books of accounts refers to him as ‘VBS’ or not,” Jaitley said.


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