The arrest of a senior public works department (PWD) officer in Nashik by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) for accepting a bribe, unearthed his fortune worth crores and has brought the focus back on the official-contractor-politician nexus.
The ACB sleuths found out that Satish Chikhlikar, PWD’s executive engineer in the Nashik division, has wealth of more than Rs. 14 crore, including Rs. 7.45 crore in cash. The bureau plans to book Chikhlikar in a disproportionate assets case.
He was arrested on Friday after ACB officers trapped Jagdish Wagh, a section engineer from Chikhlikar’s department, accepting a bribe of Rs. 22,000 on his behalf.
The Opposition has demanded a probe to ascertain whether Chikhlikar was part of a racket within the department and if he has any links with politicians and other bureaucrats.
“It has been revealed that this was part of kickbacks to clear contractors’ bills. It seems PWD engineers all over the state run such rackets in connivance with ministers and contractors,” BJP leader Kirit Somaiya told HT.
State PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, however, rubbished the allegations.
The Nashik anti-corruption bureau (ACB) is planning to seek permission to file an additional case of disproportionate assets.
“Chikhlikar had told the contractor to hand over the money to Wagh,” said SH Mahavarkar, deputy commissioner of police, Nashik ACB.
According to the Nashik ACB, the complainant, a contractor, was awarded a contract of Rs. 43 lakh to construct a two-kilometre road in 2009 in Nashik. The contractor was to be given a cheque of Rs. 3.79 lakh for which Chikhlikar and Wagh allegedly demanded 6% commission (Rs 22,000).
The ensuing probe revealed that the executive engineer had amassed wealth worth more than Rs. 14 crore. The police began searches and stumbled upon currency notes stuffed in two bank lockers at Chikhlikar’s residence.
The officials recovered Rs. 7.5 crore in cash, and gold and silver ornaments weighing around 5 kg worth Rs. 2 crore from bank lockers and residence of Chikhlikar. “It took us around four hours to count the money (Rs 7.5 crore cash) using a machine,” said an officer from ACB.
Besides, papers pertaining to properties worth Rs. 5.16 crore in the name of Chikhlikar’s family members were also found. ACB sources stated that Chikhlikar owns land lots in Aurangabad, Nanded and Pune’s Baner, Balewadi and Kothrud areas. “The property evaluation on paper is Rs. 5.16 crore but the actual market value is much higher,” the officer said.
The total evaluation of Wagh’s assets came to around Rs. 86 lakh including Rs. 50 lakh cash.
“We are probing the case and have found 26 properties belonging to Chikhlikar either in his name or those of his family members. We would probe if his family members were in loop of his illegal activities and accordingly register a case against concerned family members. At the moment, Chikhlikar and his wife are in the ambit of the investigation,” said an ACB officer from Nashik.
Chikhlikar and Wagh were on Friday produced before a local court that remanded them to police custody for seven days.