Thursday, March 17, 2011

Piles of cash to bribe Indian MPs

Piles of cash to bribe Indian MPs: WikiLeaks

17 March 2011, 12:55 PM

A United States embassy employee witnessed piles of bank notes being prepared to bribe Indian MPs ahead of a crucial 2008 vote of confidence in parliament, WikiLeaks alleged.

The US staffer in New Delhi was shown “two chests containing cash” by an aide to a senior ruling party politician, and was also told $25 million was “lying around” to ensure the Congress-led government would survive the vote.

Diplomatic messages released by Wikileaks to the Hindu newspaper described how Nachiketa Kapur, an aide to prominent Congress figure Satish Sharma, said that $2.5 million had bought the votes of four MPs.

The alleged incident occurred shortly before Manmohan Singh’s government narrowly survived the confidence vote over a controversial deal to allow India to buy US nuclear reactors and fuel.

Singh’s Congress-led coalition was re-elected in 2009, but has recently become mired in a string of corruption scandals ranging from the cut-price sale of telecoms licences to graft surrounding last year’s Commonwealth Games.

Kapur “showed the Embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs,” according to the Wikileaks cable.

Sharma, a close associate of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, told television news channels on Thursday he did not have an aide called Nachiketa Kapur.

The July 2008 vote, which came close to toppling Singh, has long been subject to corruption claims. Opposition MPs waved wads of money in parliament which they claimed the government was using to try to bribe them.

Opposition parties held protests in both houses of parliament on Thursday over the Wikileaks revelations, forcing adjournments.

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