Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya and his son Neil were booked by the Mumbai Police on Wednesday for allegedly siphoning off funds over Rs 57 crore that had been collected to restore INS Vikrant, the Indian Navy’s first aircraft carrier, PTI reported.
A first information report was filed against Somaiya and his son at the Trombay police station based on a complaint filed by a 53-year-old former Army officer, identified as Baban Bhosle, according to ANI.
According to the complaint, Somaiya, a former MP, started a campaign between 2013 and 2014 to raise funds to restore the aircraft carrier. However, the money raised was not deposited with the Maharashtra governor’s secretary office but rerouted into his own business. The complainant claimed that he also donated to the campaign, reported PTI.
“A case has been registered against Kirit Somaiya and Neil Somaiya under Sections 420 [cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property], 406 [punishment for criminal breach of trust] and 34 [acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention] of the Indian Penal Code...,” Senior Police Inspector Rehana Sheikh told ANI.
The police will seek Somaiya’s and Neil’s bank account details to establish the money trail, an unidentified official told The Indian Express. The official added that the police are yet to issue summons to anyone in the case.
Sanjay Raut demands CBI probe
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Wednesday accused Somaiya of siphoning off the Rs 57 crore that he collected from the public to invest in his son’s construction business.
“In the 1971 war against Pakistan, the Indian Navy played a key role, including the INS Vikrant,” said Raut, ANI reported. “When the situation of the INS Vikrant got bad [damaged in the war] and it got difficult to maintain, there were campaigns for turning it into a museum.”
Raut said that the Centre and state governments could not pay the Rs 200 crore required to restore the carrier, which is why a nationwide campaign was launched.
Several party leaders from Maharashtra, including Somaiya, had met AK Antony, who was the Union defence minister at the time, said Raut.
Somaiya would wear “Save Vikrant” t-shirts and appeal to the people to donate money for the campaign, alleged the Shiv Sena leader.
“Somaiya then said in all the newspapers that they will submit the money to Raj Bhavan’s account by opening a separate independent account,” Raut added, ANI reported. “We got the information from Raj Bhavan that no such amount had been submitted.”
The Maharashtra government will look into the matter, he said, adding that an independent Central Bureau of Investigation or Income Tax inquiry should also be initiated. “It is directly a case of treason,” the Shiv Sena leader said.