Kolkata, March 24 (IANS) Describing the allegations that his wife Rujira Narula was caught at the Kolkata airport for carrying gold in her check-in baggage as “baseless”, Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee said on Sunday that the complaint filed by the Customs authorities alleging interference and obstruction by the local police was drafted in Delhi and was “highly politically motivated”.
The Lok Sabha member from Diamond Harbour held a marathon presser on Sunday where he declared that he was “open to any form of investigation” to unearth the truth.
Challenging the Customs authorities to prove that his wife was carrying even two grams of gold when she reached the Kolkata airport from Bangkok on the intervening night of March 15 and 16, Banerjee, the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said that he would quit politics if there was any wrongdoing on his wife’s part.
In an aggressive tone, Banerjee repeatedly used the word “I challenge” as he targeted the Customs authorities, the opposition and some right wing portals carrying the reports of the incident.
He also threatened to slap criminal and civil defamation suits against some opposition leaders twitting on the issue.
Banerjee said his wife also filed a police complaint on March 16 against the way she was “harassed and heckled” by the Customs officials, which has later been converted into an FIR as per a court directive following a preliminary enquiry.
He shot five questions to the Customs authorities and claimed that the complaint filed by the department on March 22 had a covering letter marked “secret” from the Commissioner of Customs (airport and administration) Manish Chandra.
Referring to para 2 of the covering letter, Banerjee said it was clearly written that “this (filing of the complaint) is as per the instructions of CBIC, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, New Delhi” and that the FIR to be filed was enclosed.
“This shows that the person filing the complaint, Assistant Commissioner of Customs S.K. Biswas, had not written the complaint himself,” Banerjee said.
Quoting the opening paragraph of the Customs complaint, he said: “The two lady passengers (his wife Rujira Narula and one Menka Gambhir) were randomly selected considering their ‘movements and profile’.
“Now what does the word profile mean? Is it a crime to be associated with me? Does it signify that since you are Abhishek Banerjee’s wife, you are being harassed and heckled,” Banerjee asked.
Banerjee further said that if his wife was travelling with gold, then “why wasn’t the gold confiscated or seized.”
“If at all the local police had obstructed the Customs officials in the due discharge of their duty, why didn’t they seek help from the CISF personnel who guard the airport.
“I would also ask them if the matter was so serious, why did they take seven days to file the FIR. We had filed the general diary the morning after the incident. After a preliminary enquiry, the complaint has been converted into an FIR following court orders,” he said.
“Finally, I would ask them why they are not looking into the CCTV footages which are present from the de-boarding point to immigration to prove whether at all my wife was carrying gold. If they can show me even a split-second footage on a single camera that she was carrying even two grams of gold, I will accept whatever they say,” he said.
Banerjee said that his wife, who has a ‘Person of Indian Origin’ card, holds a Thai passport because she was born and brought up in Thailand.
“She had gone there for two days for medical treatment. She has a medical condition about which we will submit papers to the court and the investigating agency,” he said.
Banrjee also said that his wife was harassed for 75 mimutes from 12:40 a.m. to 1:55 a.m., but she did not receive any “special assistance from the police”.
He further alleged that the Customs officials asked for a bribe of Rs 50,000, which his wife refused to dole out “as she had done nothing wrong”.
“Then they shifted her from the green channel to the red channel. I challenge the Customs officials to show CCTV footage to back their claim that personnel from the Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate had gone to provide her with special assistance.
“But after facing the ordeal for 75 minutes, she felt uneasy and called my personal assistant. It was then that a lady police personnel was sent there who was by her side for 10 minutes only,” he said.
Banerjee said his wife could have been spared all the trouble had she been accompanied by a security assistant, “like the family members of their (BJP) leaders.”
Daring the BJP to arrest him, Banereje said the saffron outfit cannot stand him as he has filed a case against its national President Amit Shah. “But I would like to tell them that they cannot stop or intimidate me in this way. Trinamool or Mamata Banerjee has never bowed down to such threats,” he said.
It was the only time Banerjee took his aunt’s name during the presser, which, he said, he was “addressing in his individual capacity”.