The Enforcement Directorate has sought President Pratibha Patil’s permission to question Puducherry LG Iqbal Singh in connection with the passport issued by the Patna RPO to the Pune-based stud farm owner Hasan Ali Khan way back in 1997. The passport, which was issued in a mere seven days, was collected by a person claiming to be the bodyguard of Singh, who was then a Congress MP. As the LG is appointed by the President, any agency intending to question him has to seek the nod of the Head of the State.
The President is likely to refer the matter to the Union Home Ministry. As things stand, Puducherry goes to polls on April 13, while its verdict will be declared a month later. The ED, therefore, is expected to get the go-ahead to question Singh only after the Assembly election results are out. Singh, even otherwise, has sought to steer clear of the controversy by conveying to the government informally that his PSO was not involved in collecting the passport on Khan’s behalf.
The ED had, during its interrogation of Khan in the black money case, stumbled upon Singh’s name as it tried to unravel the mystery behind the seven passports held by the Pune businessman. It was discovered that it was a letter from the Ministry of External Affairs’ which facilitated the expeditious processing of his application. The letter, it is suspected, was a fake one. Documents seized by the directorate reveal that the then passport officer M N Prasad issued a passport to Khan on April 10, 1997.
Ali had applied on April 3, identifying himself as a resident of Alamganj , Patna, and a permanent resident of Belsand, Sitamarhi. The file was sent to the Patna SSP’s office a day later. On April 5, the passport office received a fax from A K Pande, who claimed to be OSD to then Union External Affairs Minister I K Gujral, instructing it to complete all formalities to issue the passport to Ali by April 9, 1997. The Patna RPO reacted with alacrity, scurrying to meet the deadline.
On April 10, 1997, Prasad replied to the External Affairs Ministry about the issuance of the passport, observing that “ it had been handed over to Sri Sri Ashok Kumar, constable service number 632985, bodyguard to honourable MP Sri Iqbal Singh.” The ED believes that it was, in fact, Amalendu Pandey, a Congress leader from Bihar, who had masqueraded as the then External Affairs Minister’s OSD, and sent the fax. Pandey is now on the run. His apartment at Gautam Nagar in south Delhi was raided by the ED last month.
The officials claim to recovered several “ incriminating” documents from Pandey’s residence. Pandey is not only alleged to have ensured that Khan was provided with the passport, but also took him by road to Kathmandu , helping him evade the immigration checks enroute. From Kathmandu, they took a plane to Singapore. Once in Singapore, Pandey helped Khan in opening another account with the UBS. Economic Times