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Hasan Ali’s associate funded Nalini Chidambaram trips
NAVTAN KUMAR  New Delhi | 6th Jun 2015

Hasan Ali Khan

Kashinath Tapuriah, an associate of businessman Hasan Ali Khan, who was accused of money laundering and was subsequently jailed, sponsored lawyer Nalini P. Chidambaram's flight tickets when her husband P. Chidambaram was the Union Home Minister.

In its statement to the Kolkata unit of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the travel agency "Travel Hub Private Limited" has submitted that flight tickets were arranged for Nalini Chidambaram 16 times between December 2009 and August 2010, apparently to get legal counsel from her. During this period, her husband was Union Home Minister, who was approving the Letters of Rogatory (LRs) to Switzerland and other tax havens in tracing Hasan Ali's and Tapuriah's money. The case was monitored by the Supreme Court and subsequently the ED filed a charge-sheet. It is to be noted that Chidambaram was the Home Minister from 30 November 2009 to 31 July 2012.

Nalini Chidambaram could not be contacted, but her junior advocate, N.R.R. Arun Natrajan, on her behalf, wrote in an emailed response: "Mr Kashinath Tapuriah is one of the executors of the Will of Mrs Priyamvada Devi Birla, who is the sister of Mr Tapuriah. Mrs Nalini Chidambaram, Senior Advocate, was engaged by Mr Krishna Nanda Mukherjee, the local counsel in Kolkata, to appear on behalf of Mr Tapuriah in the Priyamvada Devi Will case which was pending before the High Court of Kolkata. Hence Mr Tapuriah bought air tickets for Mrs Nalini Chidambaram for her appearance in the Priyamvada Devi Will case."

As per documents available with this newspaper, while four flight tickets for Nalini Chidambaram were booked in December 2009, one flight ticket was booked in August 2010, two tickets in August 2010 and nine tickets in the December 2009-January 2010 period.

Tapuriah, a Kolkata-based industrialist was in the news when he bought Indian Cable Company Limited from its British owners in the 1980s. He later changed its name to Incab Industries Limited. The shareholders of this company dismissed him from chairmanship in 1996 as they felt that he was responsible for its financial troubles. He is also the brother of Priyamvada Birla (the then head of the M.P. Birla Group), whose will gave all her assets to her chartered accountant R.S. Lodha on her death. This created a controversy as her close relatives were excluded from the will. In 2004, the assets were valued at Rs 5,000 crore.

The Hasan Ali case dates back to 5 May 2007, when searches were conducted in properties owned by him. A laptop was recovered during the searches, which contained scanned copies of documents stating that Hasan Ali had accounts in UBS Zurich, with deposits more than $8 billion. The ED also provided a copy of Khan's statement, which indicated that he had opened an account in UBS Singapore. The account was allegedly opened on the recommendation of arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who was also involved in the Bofors case.

It is to be noted that Khan had denied that any of these accounts was his and was spared interrogation by the authorities until they were pulled up by the Supreme Court in 2011 for this lapse. He was subsequently incarcerated and is in prison in Maharashtra.

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