Terse letter from Sonia prompted Advani''s apology

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New Delhi, Feb 19 (PTI) It was a terse letter byCongress President Sonia Gandhi that led to senior BJP leaderL K Advani expressing his "deep regret" over an allegation ina report of a task force appointed by his party that she andher late husband Rajiv had accounts in Swiss banks.

In her letter to Advani written on February 15, Gandhihad said that the task force report contained "baseless andreckless allegations" and wondered how Advani could be"endorsing such scurrrillous and malicious fabrications".

"My attention has been drawn to a publication titled''Indian black money abroad in secret banks and tax havens''purporting to be a report submitted by a task force appointedby BJP. This so called report contains reckless and baselessallegations against me and my family including my late husbandand my mother", Gandhi had noted in her communication to theBJP leader, sources said.

She had added that these "lies" energeticallydisseminated from time to time by sections of the media andinterested parties have so far been treated by her with thecontempt they deserve.

Gandhi said she was "surprised and disappointed" tofind a leader of Advani''s stature endorsing such "scurrilousand malicious fabrications" through their release at afunction presided over by him.

This had prompted Advani to express his "deep regret",a move which was welcomed by Congress party. However,Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni also took adig at the BJP leader over the issue.

In a brief letter sent to Gandhi on February 17,Advani had said, "I am happy that you have denied the reportsrelating to you and your family alluded to in the Task Force''sReport on Black Money.

"If these had been denied earlier the Task Force wouldhave taken your denial into account. Even so, I deeply regretthe distress caused to you".

The Congress welcomed Advani''s letter but Informationand Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni took a dig at the BJPveteran, saying she thought he had retired leaving the spacefor younger people like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

"Mr Advani has been making a statement everyday ondifferent subjects... Probably, he is not having enough timeto study what he is saying," Soni had said.

Notwithstanding Advani''s regret, the BJP said thatGandhi should have issued a rebuttal or a denial earlier asseveral magazines and journals had made these allegationsagainst her family members from time to time.

The BJP appointed four-member task force comprises SGurumurthy, former IB director Ajit Doval, Professor RVaidyanathan from IIM-Bangalore, and advocate MaheshJethmalani.

The task force report, released by Advani and otherNDA leaders on Feb 1, had alleged that Sonia Gandhi and formerPrime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were among Indians who held Swissbank accounts.

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