Four plus years ago the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an indictment alleging a plot stretching from India to Chicago to pay senior Indian officials some $18.5 million for mining licenses in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Central to the scheme was K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, then senior advisor to the state’s Chief Minister. He allegedly solicited and agreed to accept bribes for himself and other Indian officials in return for approving the licenses.
As soon as the sealed indictment issued, the U.S. requested KVP’s extradition from India. In accordance with the U.S.-Indian extradition treaty, the Indian government is required to surrender anyone located in India accused of the crimes in the United States of the kind KVP allegedly committed. Article nine provides that all the U.S. need do is provide Indian authorities with “information describing the facts of the offense and the procedural history of the case, a statement of the provisions of the law describing the essential elements of the offense. . . [and] a statement of the provisions of the law describing the punishment for the offense.”
The 43-page indictment (described here) easily meets these requirements. It details the plot KVP, Ukrainian magnate and alleged Russian mobster Dmytro Firtash, and a U.S. resident, and others concocted to rob the citizens of Andhra Pradesh of hundreds of millions of dollars through a web of bribes and kickbacks. The charges against defendants — racketeering, money laundering, and related crimes arising from the scheme – are precisely and carefully specified.
So why is KVP still not in U.S. hands?
It is not as if the government can’t find him. If it is having any trouble, it could friend him on Facebook. If that proves too hard, the authorities could simply attend the next meeting of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament. KVP is a prominent member and thanks to his passioned advocacy for Andhra Pradesh he attends regularly. (An advocacy that is ironic if indeed he was part of a conspiracy to steal hundreds of millions from its citizens.) And while some say the whole point of KVP taking a seat in Parliament (just when the U.S. extradition request arrived) was to shield him from U.S. justice, no parliamentary privilege protects him from extradition.
Nor is it likely that the U.S. has lost interest in the case. It spent significant time and resources tracking Firtash to Vienna, and according to Firtash’s lawyer is nearing the end of a four-year battle in Austrian courts to extradite him.
Politics doesn’t seem to be at work either. KVP is a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Congress Party, a party that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party turned out of power at the 2014 elections. Modi made the fight against corruption a centerpiece of his first term in office and is asking voters to return him and the BJP to office in 2019 based in large part on his record fighting corruption.
Is it too much to ask Modi why his government hasn’t lifted a finger to see KVP answers the charges against him? Is there more to this story than appears? Democratic elections are all about holding incumbents accountable for their record in office. Will Indian voters call Modi to account for refusing to force KVP to answer the U.S. allegations of grand corruption?