Who could be afraid of Indrani?

Who could be afraid of Indrani?
Who could be afraid of Indrani?

Navin Upadhyay

New Delhi

The Sheena Bora murder case is back in the news with its prime suspect Indrani Mukerjea taking a drug overdose on Friday night in an alleged suicide bid just a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation lodged three FIRs in the probe.

As Indrani swung between life and death at the Mumbai’s JJ hospital, some obvious questions are doing the rounds. How can jail authorities overlook such consignment of drugs to reach Indrani when she was an obvious target for many people in the case— and there were more than enough reasons for her to end her own story, too.

The police suspect that it was a case of a suicide attempt. They may be right. It can also be argued that it is well-nigh impossible for jail authorities to keep alive a person who is determined to end his/her life.

This could be true in normal cases where overburdened jail warden and guards cannot be expected to keep an eye on every inmate. But here was a high-profile case, and what Indrani might reveal during the course of the probe could sully big reputations. It was not just a case of murder, but a case where big money was also involved.

If we turn skeptics for a while and refuse to buy the police theory of attempted suicide, then a possibility opens of someone trying to silence Indrani to derail the money trail. While this could be just a conjecture, but there would be many who would buy such a supposition going by the conduct of the Maharashtra government in abruptly removing Rakesh Maria from the post of the Mumbai police commissioner when he and his police team were about to crack the motive behind Sheena Bora murder.

The Maharashtra Government’s decision to hand over the investigation to the CBI is also baffling. Here was a case where the police were making excellent progress and there was no demand from any square to involve the CBI into the investigations. In a country where people have to wage months of agitation to get a CBI probe in cases of crime and corruption, the state government’s suo moto decision to involve the CBI was baffling, to say the least.

While it removed media glare from the probe since the CBI takes it own sweet time to act, it led to unsavory speculation that the authorities were trying to save the neck of some powerful people who could be exposed if the money trail was taken to its logical conclusion.

The CBI could still track the money trail, but the reputation of the Central agency is so poor that it could not be expected to lay its hand on the mighty and powerful people who may have been involved in financial wheeling and dealing of Indrani and her husband Peter Mukerjea, ex-Chief Executive Officer of the Star News.

A person in the know of the Indrani’s wide social and financial network told this correspondent that a big business tycoon with a huge financial interest in the TV media was also involved in the financial angle of the case. “In addition, several powerful politicians and socialites had financial dealings with Peter Mukerjea and were involved in providing them huge unsecured loans for starting an unsuccessful media venture. Many of them are also suspected to have close links with the cricket establishment,” he said.

“The CBI has to just have a look at the transaction details of Indrani’s bank accounts. It will lead to some big names,” said the person, adding that the fact that Rakesh Maria was removed just when the media started talking about the police un-raveling the money angle into the case proves that someone might be trying to save some powerful people.

After Peter Mukerjea parted ways with STAR in 2008 after serving an eight-year stint as the chief executive officer of the STAR India, he and Indrani set up the INX Media. Indrani was CEO of the fledgling company and Peter its executive director.

They went on a fundraising spree, roping in private equity fund houses, including a Mauritius-based startup, New Silk Route Advisors (NSR), which was founded by a host of dubious persons. Four of the six persons who set up the NSR were allegedly involved in insider trading and were also interrogated over the charge. The two others, Ex-Goldman Sachs director, Rajat Gupta and Raj Rajaratnam were convicted for the same charges.

It is understood that NSR was a source of benami investment. At this stage controversial lobbyist, Neera Radia’s name also figured in connection with possible funding of the INX media by . the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited.

Thereafter, the Singapore government’s Temasek Holdings came on board as an investor and the company allotted 20% equity to it. Other stakeholders were (according to a report in the Economic Times): Kotak Mahindra Bank, New Silk Route (20%), and New Vernon (10.01%). The Mukerjeas controlled the remaining 50%.

The rest is the story of siphoning off funds and scandal of the worst sort. The empire that the Mukerjeas built collapsed soon and they were out if the media business.

In this background, several vested interests and powerful individuals would like to see Indrani sleep forever. They may not be part of the Sheena Bora murder, but the probe into financial angle could take the lid off a much bigger scandal!

Navin Upadhyay

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