Just 10 days before Gurgaon police conducted raids to expose an international kidney transplant racket, it had given the green signal to the passport office to give the alleged kingpin Amit Kumar a duplicate copy of a "lost" passport.
This and many more tales of official malpractice and negligence have come to surface after a quick investigation by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) found that the passport office has issued Amit Kumar, alias Santosh Rameshwar Raut, four passports with three identities.
The net began to untangle after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wrote to the MEA's consular passport and visa division earlier this week to ask them to search for multiple passports issued to the fugitive mastermind of the multimillion-rupee scam, informed sources said.
On January 24, police personnel from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh jointly raided two premises owned by Amit Kumar in Gurgaon, based on a complaint of a labourer. Police estimate that the racket spread over seven states has conducted nearly 600 illegal kidney transplants, with most beneficiaries being foreign nationals.
So far, 11 people have been taken into custody. Amit Kumar is suspected to have fled to Canada.
The Indian investigation agency, though not officially involved in the case yet, had reportedly provided five names to MEA to start the search, mainly variations in spelling of Raut.
"We didn't find any trace of the names that CBI sent us. Further, we have issued passports to 10,321 Amit Kumars all over the country," an MEA official told IANS.
The first passport (X733275) was issued on a Bombay address to Santosh Rameshwar Raut for 10 years in 1985. The date of birth was entered as July 26 1953.
After this passport expired, he reapplied for an extension in 1995. "According to records, Mumbai police had given an adverse report on his verification for the new passport," the official said. This was not surprising because Amit Kumar had already opened his history sheet when he was arrested in 1993 along with 12 other medicos for carrying out illegal kidney transplants in Kaushalya Clinic in northwest Mumbai.
However, despite Mumbai police's objection, the passport office issued him a new passport (U540761), which expired in 2005. It is likely that he used this passport to leave the country, sometime in 1995-96, to resurface in Turkey. He returned to India a few years later after a suitable cooling-off period.
Probably after his return home, Amit Kumar applied again for a fresh passport in 1997. But, this time, he made some changes in his particulars to don a new identity.
He spelled his name in the passport as "Ameet Kumar", with date of birth as July 26, 1958. The passport (A4384509) was issued on Jan 1, 1998 and was valid till Dec 31, 2007.
Then in 1999, Raut applied for a passport in the name of "Amit Kumar", making himself 14 years younger, by giving his date as July 26, 1967. He was granted the passport (Z047537) with a 20-year validity that ends in 2019. "It is likely that he has been using this passport, as so far, we have unearthed this is his only current passport," said the official.
Interestingly, in September 2007, Amit Kumar applied for a duplicate copy, claiming that the original was lost. Here the involvement of Gurgaon police officers become suspect, since despite Amit Kumar's arrest by Gurgaon police in 2001, the police verification report that reached the passport office in January 2008 gave a no-objection.
"The files show that Gurgaon police's report reached the passport office on January 14 giving the go-ahead. The original report copy was taken back by the Gurgaon police once the kidney racket was splashed in the media. But we have its copies in the files," the official told IANS.
Now, the web becomes even more tangled with criss-crossing lines - it now transpires that the "doctor" had also applied for a fresh passport in 2003 as "Amit Purushottam". "But, the computer detected that the name of the father, Purushottam Kumar, and the date of birth was similar to an already existing record," he said.
However, government files show that after a notice was sent to the applicant, the status was changed from "fresh to replacement for lost passport". "So, he was issued a replacement for an existing passport whose validity likely expired in 2007," the official told IANS.
While these four passports issued to three different names have different particulars, they have two similarities. All of them have the same date and month for the date of birth. "Secondly and most important, they all have the photograph of the same person."