Investigators have so far detected Rs 870.88 crore in alleged fraudulent transfer of government funds by a Bhagalpur based NGO during the probe by the Economic Offence Unit (EOU) even as 11 FIRs have been lodged in this connection, a top police officer said. Director General of Police (DGP) P K Thakur told reporters that a total of 11 separate FIRs have been lodged in the alleged scam.
Nine cases have been lodged for alleged embezzlement of funds of Rs 624.86 crore from various departments in Bhagalpur alone, one each FIR has been lodged for alleged embezzlement of funds of Rs 162.92 crore from land acquisition department in Saharsa and Rs 83.10 crore from land acquisition department in Banka district, Thakur said.
A total of 18 persons have been arrested in the case so far, the DGP, said adding that six government officials and employees have been arrested including District Welfare Officer, Bhagalpur and District Cooperative Officer Supaul besides eight banks officials and employees including one manager of Bank of Baroda and Indian Bank.
Four persons of NGO Srijan including its administrator and manager also figured among 18 persons arrested so far, Thakur added. The government has also constituted STF to nab absconding Srijan’s secretary Rajni Priya, her husband Amit Kumar and Rajiv Ranjan Singh, the then Land Acquisition Officer of Bhagalpur, the DGP said.
The state government on August 18 recommended a CBI probe into the scam. State government officials had earlier on August 10 put the amount alegedly embezzled at over Rs 302 crore in the initial investigation.
Bhagalpur based NGO ‘Srijan Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti’ allegedly siphoned off hundreds of crores of rupees in connivance with bank officials and government officials and employees. Apart from issuing instructions to seize passports of Rajni Priya and Amit Kumar, the CID, Bihar has also requested the Union Home ministry to issue “Look Out” notice against them on August 16, 2017, he said. The issue (of embezzlement of public money) came to light on August 4 (2017) when of the cheques bounced, the police chief said.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who brought the scam in public domain for the first time on August 8 while speaking at an event on World Earth day, said “culprits would be traced even from ‘patal’ (beneath the earth) and government money swindled would be reclaimed at any cost.”
Kumar said it was “eye opening” that a scam of this dimension did not come into notice till now. He noted that a CBI probe has been recommended into the case and nobody would be spared. “Unmindful of how mighty a person is, nobody would be spared in the inquiry into the scam and lawful punishment would be certainly given,” he told reporters in his Vidhan Sabha chamber.
A key person Mahesh Mandal (57), nazir (dealing with treasury) of Welfare Department, who arrested in the case, died in course of treatment in a hospital late last night in Bhagalpur, Senior Superintendent of Police, Bhagalpur, Manoj Kumar said. His both kidneys were damaged and he was surviving on dialysis, he said.
Leader of Opposition Tejaswi Prasad Yadav raised questions on the circumstances surrounding Mandal’s death. “He was killed by people in the government to bury truth of the scam,” Tejaswi Yadav, flanked by his brother and former minister Tej Pratap Yadav, alleged outside the state assembly.
Tejaswi Yadav alleged that the NGO scam was “even bigger than Vyapam in Madhya Pradesh in which custodians of government money themselves facilitated loot of treasury”. His mother Rabri Devi, who is leader of opposition in the state Legislative Council, demanded resignation of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi for “a fair probe into the scam”.
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