New Delhi: Gujarat police has opposed in the Supreme Court the anticipatory bail plea of Teesta Setalvad, saying the social activist and her husband “misappropriated” funds meant for charity for personal expenses ranging from wine, earbuds to expensive mobile phone besides tampering with evidence.
The state police in its affidavit said Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand as trustees of two trusts — Sabrang Trust and Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP) — have by “diverse methods” allegedly “misappropriated the funds of charity and converted to their own use funds meant for the rehabilitation and welfare of the unfortunate victims of riots in Gujarat in Feb-March 2002,” including construction of “dream museum”.
It said the probe into the case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Gulbarg society, devastated in the 2002 riots, revealed that expenses of “very personal nature” have been debited by them under the head “Secular Education” or “Legal Aid Expenses”.
It said the probe is supported by evidence like vouchers having dates and amounts incurred on consumption of wine, whiskey and rum, purchase of movie CDs of Singham, Jodha Akbar and PAA, payment for several pairs of spectacles, wining and dining at some of the best restaurants and fast food outlets of Mumbai.
The crime branch said under the heading of “secular education” and “legal aid expenses”, the investigation revealed that Setalvad claimed reimbursement towards purchase of sanitary napkins in the name of medical expense and “surprisingly” her husband too claimed reimbursement for it.
Further, purchases of purely personal items like ear buds, wet wipes, nail clippers, ladies personal items, several books including romantic novels like Mills and Boons and Thrillers like Total Control, Blackberry phone and clothes were made from the funds of Sabrang Trust.
The affidavit said, interestingly the investigation which is based on “limited documents” submitted by the couple recently to the investigating officer, also throws light that funds were used for hair styling expenses incurred by Setalvad during her trips to Rome and Pakistan and also for Gulbarg Society functions.
The affidavit said 45 per cent of total funds received by Sabrang Trust in 2008-13 have gone to Setalvad and her husband either directly or through Sabrang Communication Pvt Limited (SCPPL) which was fully owned by them.
“The inescapable conclusion is that the entire amount paid by Sabrang Trust to SCPPL has been siphoned off by petitioner under the guise of cash withdrawal and cheque payments. SCPPL is a vehicle used by the petitioners for the purpose of siphoning donations to the Sabrang Trust,” it said.
It said notices were sent to the two trusts’ auditors whose replies not only indicated non-cooperation but also contained an allegation by one of them that the couple were not cooperating with the said auditor.
It further said that the couple as trustees of Sabrang Trust has pocketed in excess of 20 per cent of the donation to the Trusts on an annualized basis towards salary alone.
“In addition to salary, the petitioners (Setalvad and her husband) have claimed medical allowance of Rs 25,000 each. The riot victims have received no medical allowance whereas the petitioners have claimed these medical expenses and even exceeded this liberal allowance in some years,” it said.
The affidavit said that after 2009, when the salary of both husband and wife started increasing “exponentially” every year, to evade disclosing misappropriation they unilaterally altered the prescribed form, i.e. Schedule IX of income and expenditure statement submitted to the charity commissioner.
“This doctored Schedule IX (not in prescribed form) did not contain the entry ‘Remuneration to trustees’ The motive was to suppress from the Charity Commissioner that the petitioners were receiving not only salary but exorbitant salary, thus concealing one of the more detectable modes of siphoning the trust’s charitable funds,” it said.
The probe found audited statement of accounts of Sabrang Trust was not submitted to the Charity Commissioner for six years from 2002 to 2008 and audited statements of accounts were filed in March 2014 after lodging of FIR in January 2014.
Similar was the case with CJP as its audited statements of accounts were submitted in one lot in January 2012 for the period from April 2003 to March 2010.
Gujarat police accused the couple of non-cooperating with probe and giving stock reply. They supplied limited documents which “unambiguously disclose the patent fraud on their part and expose their protestations as being hollow,” it said.
The couple, who have been fighting for justice for the victims of the riots, have denied all allegations contending that they have been implicated in the case and were victims of political vendetta.