The builders of the ill-fated Mumbra building that collapsed on April 4 killing 74 persons had followed all the steps in the rulebook for illegal constructions — duly paying off police and civic officials each time they launched a new phase of the project.
In fact, money had started exchanging hands between the developers and authorities, including the local corporator, even before the foundation of the building had been laid.
Highly placed sources in the Thane police crime branch which is probing the collapse told Hindustan Times that a diary recovered from the office of developers Abdul Siddique and Jamil Shaikh details the transactions with various government officials for giving a stamp of approval to the illegality.
Sources said the first entries, of bribes given to the Thane Municipal Corporation officials and the local corporator, were made in September-October 2012. It was only after their palms were greased did the builders start landing construction materials on the plot.
Sources said police constable Jehangir Sayyed from Daighar police station, who has been arrested, had kept the local police at bay by bribing officers. The crime branch is trying to identify those from the local police who had been paid through Sayyed.
Sources said the bribe amount mentioned in the diary varies between Rs2,000 and Rs5 lakh, depending on the rank of the official. It is worth mentioning here that the Thane police had stumbled upon Rs5 lakh cash during a search at the residence of deputy municipal commissioner Deepak Sharad-rao Chavan following his arrest on Saturday.
Though the source of the money is still to be ascertained, quoting the statement made by one of the arrested developers, sources said the money was a monthly retainer given by them to Chavan.
“Each of these arrested officials was paid on a monthly basis by the developers. In fact, they were paid the same amount every time a floor was added to the building,” sources said, adding that the officials had been bribed at least seven times in the 2-3 months that it took to construct the seven-storey structure.
Meanwhile, sources said the crime branch is verifying many more incriminating documents seized from the developers’ office, which could provide more leads into the case.