At last Panama Papers hit Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for his long association with Lokesh Sharma, the cricket event manager. Though Indian Express on Thursday did not mention Jaitley’s name while exposing shell companies floated by Sharma in Panama, the opposition parties Congress and AAP showed no mercy. It is not easy for majority of the media houses to write negative stories against most powerful Jaitley due to his closeness with many media barons.
But Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have no such reservations and within hours after Indian Express exposed Sharma’s companies in Panama, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and AAP’s Ashutosh went to town exposing Jaitley’s longstanding association with him.
Both parties released documents of Jaitely heading Delhi District Cricket Association’s (DDCA) contracts with Sharma’s companies including 21st Century Media Private Limited. These contracts were awarded to Sharma’s companies in 2000 and 2003 by the DDCA headed by Jaitley and his signature can be seen in all documents.
The question raised by the opposition party leaders is relevant. How now as Finance Minister, Jaitley can be believed on conducting a truthful probe against his close associate Sharma. Awarding of controversial contracts to Sharma’s companies by DDCA has been questioned several times by former cricketer and BJP MP Kirti Azad and legendary Bishan Singh Bedi, the former cricket captain of India. But none of the media houses had courage to report this in the past. Now that Sharma is caught in Panama Papers, the issue has started rocking.
Jaitley has not yet uttered a word on the Congress and AAP leader’s charges. It is a known fact in Delhi about Jaitley’s patronage on Sharma. The controversial cricket event manager is Director and Promoter of several sports related firms and real estate companies. Now Panama Papers exposed his overseas links also by floating companies in tax havens.
Sharma’s wife Gazala Akbar Sharma is the sister of BJP MP and Chief Spokesperson and veteran editor MJ Akbar. Sharma and Gazala married in December 2001. She and her son Nishant Akbar are also Directors of most of companies floated by Sharma.
Sharma and family are Directors of several companies like LGN Estates and Realtors Pvt Ltd, KGN Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, NGL Estates and Realtors Pvt Ltd, Grand Slam Pvt Ltd, RLN Sports Pvt Ltd, RL Sports Pvt Ltd, TCM Events Private Limited, TCN Sports management Private Limited, LSRN Builders and Developers Private Limited , GLNS Builders and Developers Private Limited etc.
The question that is hanging fire is that with Jaitley as Finance Minister, would there be a fair probe against close associate Lokesh Sharma in Panama Papers case? Is it possible for tax sleuths to probe against the Finance Minister’s close friend?
Below are the documents released by the AAP at a Press Conference in New Delhi today.