Decade later, no light on Rajiv Gandhi killing conspiracy (Lead)

May 20th, 2008 - 3:54 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Princess Diana
By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) A decade after it began probing if there was a conspiracy behind the killing of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, an official body tasked with the responsibility is still in the dark. The multi-disciplinary monitoring agency (MDMA) was formed in 1998. It has been probing the alleged role of controversial self-styled godman Chandraswami and Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelem (LTTE) in the May 21, 1991 assassination in Tamil Nadu.

“We have sent letters rogatory (legal letters of request for help or LRs) to various countries, out of which some have responded and some have not,” said G. Mohanty, spokesman for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is the Indian affiliate to Interpol.

The CBI had probed the Gandhi killing, leading to convictions of those linked to the assassination per se.

But the MDMA was set up separately - to find out if organisations other than the LTTE were indeed involved in the killing.

The MDMA has sent LRs to 27 countries. Only six have responded. This lack of cooperation is impeding the probe into the conspiracy angle, Mohanty added.

“All the investigations have to be done by the countries to which LRs have been sent. We can proceed only after the responses come from them,” he maintained.

The LRs relate to Chandraswami’s links with the now defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), where a senior LTTE operative, Kumaran Padmanabhan alias KP, operated accounts. KP is considered the supplier of arms and ammunition to the LTTE.

Also being probed are Chandraswami’s alleged connections with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad and the role of 21 “suspects” who were not charged in the Gandhi killing.

Unwilling to reveal more details, Mohanty said: “The investigations are secret and cannot be revealed.”

The MDMA came into being on the recommendation of Justice Milap Chand Jain, who was appointed in 1991 to probe Gandhi’s assassination independent of the CBI.

In his nine-volume report presented in 1998, Jain pointed to the need to probe three elements to uncover the possible conspiracy angle behind the killing.

These three aspects form the basis of the LRs the MDMA has sent out.

The MDMA has also despatched its investigators to various countries but has not unearthed anything on the conspiracy angle.

“We have sent people to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Canada and Australia. But the end of the tunnel is still far away,” an agency official said.

Despite its failure to unravel the mystery shrouding Gandhi’s killing, the government has extended by another year the term of the MDMA that was to expire May 31.

Giving reasons for the delay, one official said the Gandhi assassination had a mystery angle - notwithstanding the proven involvement of the LTTE — akin to the killing of US president J.F. Kennedy and the accident that killed Britain’s Princess Diana.

An LTTE human bomber assassinated Gandhi, 46, at an election rally at Sriperumbudur near Chennai. Seventeen other people were also killed in the explosion and 44 injured.

A special court set up under the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act sentenced 26 accused, including five women, to death in the case. Among them is Nalini, an Indian and the only surviving member of the squad that oversaw Gandhi’s killing.

Nalini has now sought release from jail. She is now lodged at Vellore in Tamil Nadu.

When it was constituted, the MDMA had several officials from the CBI, the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Directorate of Enforcement. It now has a skeletal staff.

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