Inside Toshkhana- gold, phones, and rolexes deposited by PM and VP, but Adhia's failure to call for probe sparks reactions

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 08, 2018 19:45 hrs
India’s Financial Services Secretary Adhia answers a question during a news conference in New Delhi

Hasmukh Adhia, the man who knew about demonetisation before November 8, 2016, is in news in a case of gifts worth Rs 2 lakhs. According to the Finance secretary, this does not qualify to become news, since he has deposited the gifts with the government's treasury- Toshkhana - two years ago.

Adhia's admission of Rs 2 lakhs dwarfs in comparison to lakhs that have been deposited inside this Toshkhana. There have been no inquiries on the Secret Santas who have gifted Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents. The MEA claims that it has a record of all the deposits. The data mentions the benefactors, but not the original donors.

Twitter reacted to The Wire's story on a lack of investigation in the case. Adhia claimed that he deposited gifts valued at Rs 2 lakhs - an iPhone 7, and two 20 gram gold biscuits (MMTC). Gifts were sent to his residence - New Moti Bagh in New Delhi, and Adhia says that he was not present at home. When asked why he did not call for an inquiry, he said, it was a common practice to receive gifts during Diwali.

He was quoted in the story as saying, "The important thing is that I did not accept the gift. Such things are common during Diwali, and things like sweets we do not refuse out of courtesy, but then how many officials would have done what I did and send the gift to the Toshakhana?"

The briber was certainly not Nirav Modi, the high-profile jeweler who is accused of swindling Punjab National Bank of Rs 12,600 crore, according to Adhia.

The finance secretary, deposited the gifts with Toshkhana - a ministry of external affairs run facility that stores gifts above a certain value. Toshkhana, which in Farsi means treasure-house, does not have an entry for the expensive gift Adhia deposited. Sify.com's search results for "Adhia" in the 17 PDF files that MEA has hosted, returned no results.  

In an e-mail interaction with Swati Chaturvedi, a journalist with The Wire , Adhia clarifies that he sent a letter to the Cabinet Secretary informing about the precious gifts. Adhia, says he has a receipt of the deposit he made with Toshkhana.

Some twitterati, like noted journalist Sucheta Dalal whose tweet we shared earlier, found the lack of an official probe questionable, while others felt Adhia did the right thing by depositing the gifts.

Here are some tweets:

The amount of Rs 2 lakhs pales when one looks at gifts that have been deposited by Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents with the Toshkhana. The MEA has published data of the names of the depositors but nothing on the Secret Santas who have gifted expensive watches, smartphones, Gold and memorabilia- which has been categorised as of "No Commercial Value".

Sify.com analyysed data available on a public source ( Ministry of External Affairs ). Here are a few insights: 

  • 1798 gifts deposited between 2013-17. The highest deposits made in 2015- 488 gifts.
  • The Total value of gifts is Rs 2,14,09,335. 405 items have been categorised as "No Commercial Value", for example books, plaques, medals, artifacts, mementos, Quilt etc.
  • 34 items priced over 1 lakh
  • Gifts valued at Rs 55,62,500, deposted by the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi)
  • No Gold Bar, but "Gold" appears 50 times in the data.
  • Gifts valued at Rs 11,000 deposited by the Finance ministry

The most costliest gift is valued at Rs 35,00,000. This was deposited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 07.04.2015. On the MEA website, the detail reads- "One box containing jewelery set (one necklace and a pair of ear ring)".

The other costly items are as follows:

  • Rolex watch valued at Rs 9,00,000 deposited by Vice President of India on 12.11.2013
  • Another Rolex watch deposited by then PM Dr. Manmohan Singh on 14.11.2013. The watch is valued at Rs 9,00,000.
  • A gold necklace deposited by then UPA President Sonia Gandhi, on 13.11.2013. The necklace was valued at Rs. 7,04,000.
  • A wrist watch(Franek Muller, Geneve) deposited by Sonia Gandhi on 21.02.2014 valued at Rs 6,00,000

There have been numerous occassions of phones being deposted too.

Sanjay Verma the Jt Secretary for MEA leads the list in depositing electronics. He has so far deposited three iphones(iPhone 7, 6s Rose Gold, and 6S Space Gray), and an ipad mini 4. Phones have also been deposited by PM Narendra Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman the current Defence Minister (who also served as the Commerce Minister), and MJ Akbar the minister of State for External Affairs.

Disclaimer:

  • Data provided by the MEA is between July'13- Sept'17.

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