Washington, 12 April-2014 , Arun Kumar(IANS) : New York’s Indian-American prosecutor Preet Bharara, who is known in India for his dogged prosecution ofIndian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, has now taken on the state’s Governor Andrew M. Cuomo over his decision to shutter an anti-corruption commission aspart of a deal with legislators for an ethics package.
IMAGE CREDIT: JASON DECROW/AP
Cuomo created thepanel “with great fanfare,” shuttered it “unceremoniously”,said Bharara in a radio interview as cited by
Newsday, and”thinking people wonder why that happened and want to get to the bottom ofit.”
“I think in theletter I sent to the commission I said there was an appearance that cases werebargained away in exchange for a political deal,” said the attorney whohit the headlines in India over the way he pursued the prosecution of Indiandiplomat Devyani Khobragade.
Bharara, an appointeeof President Barack Obama, indicated he was troubled by reports of interferencein the commission’s actions.
“I don’t knowwhat the facts are,” Bharara was quoted as saying on WNYC’s “TheBrian Lehrer Show” Thursday.
“What I can tellyou is that it’s impossible to overstate the importance of independence on thepart of any investigative body.”
Bharara, Newsdaysaid, wouldn’t rule out investigating whether Cuomo or his aides improperlyintervened in activities undertaken by the recently shuttered anti-corruptioncommission.
Asked several timesby Lehrer if he could rule out investigating Cuomo’s office, the prosecutorsaid: “I’m not going to prejudge what we’ll be looking at.”
Meanwhile, thegovernor downplayed criticism of his decision to shutter the commission saying”It was created to spur the legislation.”
“I saidrepeatedly when the legislation was passed the commission would bedisbanded,” he was quoted him as saying by Newsday at a Rochester newsconference at about the same time Bharara was on the radio.
Cuomo and legislatorsin closed-door negotiations agreed to enact some election law changes andtoughen bribery statutes.
In exchange, thegovernor terminated the commission that was originally slated to work throughthe end of this year.
According to NewsdayBharara’s investigations of state legislators helped spark, in part,thecreation of the commission last year.
In letters to thecommission, Bharara asked it to “preserve all documents that may be underyour control” — including emails.
“We’re going tolook at the documents,” Bharara was quoted as saying in an interview.”We’re going to see what the facts are, and if there are questions thatare appropriate to ask . . . my office will ask those questions.”
(Arun Kumar can becontacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)