Indian tycoon Ambani denies illegal foreign bank accounts

NEW DELHI - India's wealthiest tycoon Mukesh Ambani rejected on Tuesday allegations by anti-corruption fighter Arvind Kejriwal that he holds illegal accounts abroad.

Anti-corruption campaigner Kejriwal, who resigned earlier this month after a 49-day stormy stint as chief minister of New Delhi, has launched a barrage of attacks on the billionaire.

At a recent election rally, Kejriwal, who heads the Aam Aadmi leader or Common Man Party, read out numbers of what he alleged were two Swiss bank accounts belonging to Mukesh Ambani and his younger sibling Anil.

"Neither Reliance Industries Limited nor Mr Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate accounts anywhere in the world," said a statement by the petrochemical-to-retail conglomerate.

The net worth of Mukesh Ambani is listed at US$21 billion (S$26 billion) by Forbes and the Reliance Industries that he controls is a behemoth straddling India's economy.

The statement noted Reliance has business interests in several countries with vast turnovers.

As part of "normal business, these international subsidiaries" deal with several global banks, the statement said, adding the accounts are "fully compliant with all regulations".

There was no immediate comment from Anil Ambani, also a powerful businessman worth US$6 billion, according to Forbes.

Kejriwal came to power in Delhi following December state elections on a tide of lower and middle class support for his tough anti-corruption stance.

Reliance, with around a US$50-billion-market value, said the "tirade of baseless allegations" by the Aam Admi Party "appears to be instigated by vested interests", without elaborating.

Earlier, Kejriwal accused Mukesh Ambani of making "windfall gains" through his Reliance Industries.

Targeting officials

Kejriwal, who for years has had the Ambanis in his sights, has described himself as an "anarchist" and "political revolutionary".

During his period in office he ordered anti-corruption officials to file First Information Reports against Oil Minister Veerappa Moily, former oil minister Murli Deora, Ambani and former industry regulator V.K. Sibal, among others.

An FIR obliges police to undertake an investigation.

Kejriwal has charged that Mukesh Ambani sought to drive up gas prices by creating artificial shortages -- allegations rejected by the buinessman.

Kejriwal is planning to take on the major parties by fielding candidates in a national election due by May.

At his campaign kickoff at the weekend, he went after Reliance, asserting "Mukesh Ambani runs the country" and charging that India's media had been told to reduce their coverage of his upstart party.

Opinion polls have shown the Congress party headed for massive defeat, beset by corruption scandals and a sharply slowing economy.

Many surveys forecast a landslide win by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party headed by Narendra Modi, a contentious figure due to allegations he turned a blind eye to deadly anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, charges the politician denies.

In a change of tack on Monday that puts the BJP in his sights, Kejriwal declared communalism a greater threat to secular India than corruption, which has been his party's main platform so far and the key theme of his political discourse.