The sudden closure of the disproportionate assets case against Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s former personal secretary Vincent George by the Central Bureau of Investigation, on the grounds of ‘insufficient evidence’ does nothing to improve this agency’s reputation. It once again reinforces the public perception that the CBI is unable to conduct investigations with independence and integrity and is just a puppet and a tool in the hands of its political masters. The case against George is not only strong but is also interesting for it is the rags to riches story of an individual that shows how close proximity to politics and involvement with the powerful enriches the unscrupulous. It was the evidence gathered by the CBI itself that established that George, who took up a job as a stenographer in the 1980s with Rajiv Gandhi, made his fortune within a few short years, having inexplicably multiplied his income, to become the owner of several properties as also bank accounts into which flowed much foreign money. The CBI also exposed George’s wife’s export business, claimed to be the source of the funds, having found that it existed only on paper and with fake exports, with the suspicion being that these remittances were illegal hawala transactions. It is now the same CBI, which has remarkably given up on further investigations after 12 years of probing, of which, not surprisingly, nine lackadaisical ones have been under the Congress-led UPA rule.
It is hardly necessary to state that George, whose later role as Sonia Gandhi’s personal secretary was as a dubious party fixer, and his wealth are a deep embarrassment for the ruling party, embroiled as it is in several recent corruption scams of massive proportions. George’s ill-gotten riches are probably a mere link in a chain that leads to deeper and murkier corruption involving many others. Many questions remaining unanswered, as for example; was there a wider conspiracy and was George gathering the money only for himself or at the behest of others as well? The case has importance yet the CBI has behaved worse that a ‘caged parrot’ and has spinelessly groveled when it should have shown its teeth, letting go an individual because of powerful political patronage. The CBI director Ranjit Sinha must credibly explain to the nation how and why the case against George can be closed when it is so much in the public interest to pursue it.