The case of Vincent George

Print edition : March 31, 2001

THE Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case against Vincent George, personal secretary to Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi, accusing him of amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income.

Vincent George.-ASHOK VAHIE

The case was registered on March 21, three days after the conclusion of the AICC(I) Plenary in Bangalore and two days after the party unfolded a mass agitation programme against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, based on the Tehelka reve lations. The registration of the first information report (FIR) in a designated CBI court was clearly a dampener on the Congress (I)'s agitational plans.

On its part, the Congress(I) has been asserting that the case was a politically motivated one. Congress(I) spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy claimed that the NDA government was so seriously stung by the Tehelka revelations that it was ready to go to any lengt h to divert public attention from them. The case against Vincent George was clearly a diversionary tactic, he said.

However, this claim has not received much support, particularly from other Opposition parties. The lone support came from former Prime Minister V.P. Singh. Although he refused to give George a clean chit, V.P. Singh pointed out that the NDA government wa s adopting double standards while dealing with corruption cases. Even within the Congress(I), several leaders admit that the case against George has the potential to put the party on the back foot. In fact many of the allegations mentioned in the FIR fil ed by the CBI have been doing the rounds in party circles ever since Sonia Gandhi took over as party president in 1998. By mid-2000, these voices had almost acquired the form of a propaganda offensive against George and his alleged associates such as Con gress Working Committee (CWC) member Arjun Singh regarding mismanagement of party affairs.

The CBI has registered the case against Vincent George under Section 13(2) and Section 13(I)(E) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (acquisition of disproportionate assets). The Act refers specifically to public servants, and what is under scrutiny by t he CBI is George's amassing of wealth during the period between November 1984 and December 1990. During that period George was personal secretary to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The CBI considered the legitimate income of George, his wife Lily and children Dennis and Priyana during the "check period" and fixed it at Rs.8.84 lakhs. It was found out that as many as 11 fixed deposits, amounting to Rs.13.40 lakhs, existed in the nam es of Lily George and the two children. Sources in the government and the BJP claim that these revelations are only the tip of the iceberg and that more would come out soon.

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