Change font size -A A +A ++A
Our Economic Bureau/
Bhagalpur district administration which on yesterday registered a FIR with local police station against Srijan Mahila Vikash Sahyog Samity, a NGO operating here and Indian bank for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 10. 26 crore, virtually bewildered this morning when state chief minister, Nitish Kumar claimed before the media at Patna that embezzlement of huge government’s exchequer in the tune of more than Rs 250 has been detected at Bhagalpur in which the NGO’s role is under scanner.
The government estimated a loss of around Rs 262 crores of government’s funds but loss to the thousands of depositors is yet to be asses.
Kumar also announced to constitute a special investigating team headed by inspector general of police, economic offence unit (EOU), Bihar, Jitendar Singh Gangwar. And by the afternoon, Gangawar along with the team members, air dashed to Bhagalpur for accelerating the probe. Soon with the arrival of Gangwar, the special investigation team (SIT)of Bhagalpur police picked up some employees including Sarita Jha, manager of the Srijan Bank outside the main central office of the NGO which is located inside the Sabour block office premises which was sealed by the police on yesterday. The SIT team also picked up some bankers from some banks.
Speculation are ripe at every corner of this silk city with the sensational discloser by Nitish Kumar. Observers here claimed that the racket could be more than Rs 500 corers. Some of the observers claimed that major part of the scam was from the funds of chief minister’s urban development scheme. They even claimed that there was long list of politicians, bureaucrats, business houses who had the privilege to enjoy the NGO’s ‘forbidden’ fruit.
In the preliminary investigation by the district administration it revealed that cheque issued in favour of banker was credited in the account of the NGO on the basis of forged indorsement. It also revealed that an amount to the tune of Rs 16 crore was deposited by the said NGO in the account operated by the district administration relating to development scheme. So the nexus of monetary transaction between the account operated by the district administration and Srijan Bank is very much established. So it is not a simple case of withdrawal of amount through forged signature of district magistrate. There is apparent connivance of district administration and bankers with the Srijan Bank in embezzlement of government funds. Even the district cooperative office and district cooperative bank, Bhagalpur could not escape their responsibility, observers pointed out.
The investigation would reveal the involvements of persons concerned in this scam but it is possible that the district administration was quite unaware and unfazed about it which was rampantly going on under it’s nose, expert in financial affairs alleged. They alleged that despite of the fact that this case is a classic example of money laundering through embezzlement of government fund, FIR under the money laundering act yet not been instituted. Secondly, the said NGO used to park huge black money of government officials apart from taking illegal deposit from weaker section of the society and also lending the money to the big business houses and real estate dealers. So it should be investigated by the enforcement directorate only, they pointed out.
Ironically, earlier in 2013 in the wake of infamous case of Jayshree Thakur, a ADM rank official here, name of the said NGO came in the lime light and the than district magistrate, Bhagalpur had constituted two member committee to investigate into the affairs of the NGO. The two members of the committee, Sudhir Kumar, ADM rank official at Bhagalpur and Pankaj Jha, district cooperative officer,Bhagalpur, submitted a report to district magistrate, Bhagalpur but no action was taken against the NGO. Most interestingly, Pankaj Jha is also associated with Srijan Mahila Vikash Sahyog Samity who had been assigned for conducted inquiry against the same organization.
Meanwhile at that time a complaint against the said NGO and its activity regarding parking of huge black money and involvement of bankers in crediting third party cheque to the tune of Rs 7.32 crore in the account of NGO and also regarding illegal banking activity by the NGO was reported to the ministry of finance, Reserve Bank of India and chief minister Bihar in the form of complain by a Godda based social activist, Sanjit Kumar. Upon the complaint Reserve Bank of India, Patna (89/04.01.19/2013-14) dated September 9, 2013 forwarded the complaint to register, cooperative societies, government of Bihar for action. Unfortunately no action was taken at that time by the state government , district administration and even by the Reserve Bank of India resultant into huge loss of government money in the hands of the said NGO operating illegal bank.
It is pertinent to recall here that during that time there was much hue and cry against the mushrooming illegal deposit taking organizations, loosely called as chit funds, action was taken against few such illegal deposit taking companies. But this Bhagalpur NGO was out of government scanner at that time.
In due course even an administrative direction was taken by the state government to the district cooperative officers to examine the various registered cooperative societies in the context of taking deposits, this NGO also was untouched.
However, the claim of the district administration that due to non-encasement of cheque for the reason of non-availability of funds, it came to know about whole thing and prompted action, appears to be incorrect. Issue of diversion of funds to the said NGO came into the notice of district administration in the last week of month March 2017 which is reflected by the action of the said NGO as Rs 16 crore was deposited at that time in the bank account of district administration, sources said.
People here however welcomed the initiative taken by the chief minister for setting special investigation in this episode. But many of them also raised doubt about the outcome of such investigations. While echoing the same, the observers also pointed out that since many influential politicians from the ruling alliance also have their deep nexus with this NGO so it is hard to guess about the outcome of such investigations !