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Accused dies, PF scam turns murkier

delhi Updated: Oct 19, 2009 01:57 IST
Peeyush Khandelwal
Peeyush Khandelwal
Hindustan Times
Ashutosh Asthana

Ashutosh Asthana, the main accused in the multi-crore Ghaziabad provident fund scam allegedly involving 36 judges, including a sitting Supreme court judge, died mysteriously on Saturday.

“He has been murdered on the instructions of the powerful people involved in the fund scam,” brother Shishir Asthana said. He added that Asthana had received death threats.

<b1>Asthana, an administrative officer in the Ghaziabad district court, was arrested 18 months ago by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly withdrawing Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million) from the court’s provident fund account. He named 36 judges as the real beneficiaries of the money — he had bought them gifts ranging from airconditioners to carpets.

Asthana’s wife, Sushma — also an accused in the case and in Ghaziabad’s Dasna jail since February 2008 — said that she apprehended a threat to her life too. “Till the time my husband was alive, I was a bit confident. But those who have murdered him might kill me too,” she said on Sunday.

The doctors who conducted the autopsy on Asthana could not find much and allowed the body to be cremated after removing some organs (called viscera) for tests later.

“There were no injury marks on his body,” Ghaziabad police chief Akhil Kumar said.

Jail superintendent VK Singh said Asthana had complained of giddiness on Saturday. “He fainted and was referred to the jail-hospital. He was later referred to MMG district hospital where he apparently died of a heart attack,” he added.

But doctors at the hospital said Asthana was brought dead. The attending doctor, AK Singh, said: “It looks like a case of poisoning but the exact cause can be ascertained only after post-mortem.”

Jail officials said Asthana had been disturbed since Friday morning, after a visit from two CBI officials.