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Former BJP chief Bangaru convicted for bribery, sentencing Saturday

New Delhi(IANS): Former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Bangaru Laxman was convicted by a Delhi court and taken into custody for accepting a bribe from a fake arms dealer in a 10-year-old graft case.

Arguments on sentencing will be heard Saturday.

Convicted by Additional Sessions Judge Kanwaljeet Arora, a visibly shocked Laxman was taken into judicial custody after the verdict.

“I am of the considered opinion that CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) had been able to establish the necessary ingredients of offence under section 9 of the Prevention of Corruption act, 1988 against accused Bangaru Laxman beyond reasonable doubt,” the court said while holding the former BJP chief guilty under the section of the anti-corruption act for accepting the bribe.

“The accused Bangaru Laxman on Jan 5, 2001 had accepted illegal gratification of Rs.1 lakh from M/S Westend International and has further agreed to accept the balance amount of illegal gratification in dollars, as a motive or reward for exercise of personal influence on the public servants working with ministry of defence, to show favour for award of a supply order in favour of the above mentioned company of HHTIs (hand-held thermal imagers) to Indian Army,” the court added.

Before announcing his verdict, the court asked Laxman, who reached the court a few minutes before 2 p.m. with his daughter and few supporters, to come near the dais.

Laxman’s face became pale when the court pronounced him guilty and ordered that the 72-year-old be taken into custody. He was taken to jail by police followed by court’s direction.

Meanwhile, the court appreciated the role of counsel from both side for their coordination in smooth running of trial.

The case dates to 2001, when newsportal tehelka.com carried out a sting operation that caught Laxman on camera receiving money from a journalist posing as an arms dealer. He later resigned as the BJP chief.

Tehelka had released CDs showing Laxman accepting money for awarding a contract to a fictitious Britain-based company M/s West End International, for the supply of the imagers to the Indian Army.

“I am of the opinion that the method adopted by the Tehelka people may be objectionable, but their purpose was not,” the court said.

“The material collected on record does not suggest any shortfall in the investigation”, it said and observed that the idea to commit wrong came to the accused immediately after meeting the representative of the supposed firm.

The court also took note of the statement made by witnesses in the case including the man, who offered the bribe to Laxman and ruled that it has been able to establish that the accused has accepted bribe from the fake arms dealer.

A Delhi court May 2011 framed corruption charges against Laxman. The CBI, in its charge sheet, said that Laxman accepted Rs.1 lakh from the representatives of the purported firm in 2001 at his office for pursuing their proposal to supply certain products to the army.

“Tehelka portal scribes, impersonating as representatives of West End International, had held eight meetings with Laxman between Dec 23, 2000 and Jan 7, 2001, projecting themselves as suppliers of defence-related products,” said the charge sheet.

However, Laxman had said that the investigations of the case were politically motivated and were not conducted in fair manner.

Alleging that the Congress party had funded this sting operation, Laxman said: “Congress Party did use the Tehelka tapes in the general elections held in 2004, which goes on to establish that it was Congress party or the persons having interest therein, who funded this project, wherein I was framed… I never had any disposition to commit any offence.”

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