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Businessmen under ATS scanner

india Updated: Nov 25, 2008 23:22 IST
Stavan Desai

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is investigating several Pune-based industrialists for allegedly “donating” funds to Abhinav Bharat — whose cadre have been arrested for alleged involvement in the September 29 Malegaon blast.

ATS officials said Pune-based Shyam Apte (71) was the outfit’s contact person who approached these industrialists for “donations”. The ATS suspects these funds were diverted and used to train the cadre for the blast. The ATS officials also said it has been revealed that Purohit was in close contact with Apte about the outfit’s functioning and fundraising.

Apte was working in the United States and returned to the country in the mid-1980s and settled in Pune. While in the US, he was actively working with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other Hindu organizations. According to the investigators, it was then that he made contact with businessmen and industrialists. After returning to India, he became involved with Abhinav Bharat.

“His contacts with local businessmen and industrialists proved valuable for the outfit in procuring funds,” said one investigator on condition of anonymity.

The Pune unit of the ATS has already questioned Apte in this regard and will now question the industrialists whose names have emerged during investigations. Also under the scanner for arranging funds for the outfit is another arrested accused, Ajay Eknath Rahikar, who the ATS alleges is the chief financial controllor of Abhinav Bharat.

Court seeks answers
While the ATS goes after this angle, the probe has already suffered a blow with the Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Monday denying it further custody of seven of the 11 arrested accused, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Purohit, after they leveled allegations of torture by the ATS during investigations.

And on Tuesday, the court directed the state to file a reply on the subject by December 3.

It also granted the sadhvi’s request for a medical check-up, and asked the chief medical officer of the central prisons to examine her and submit a report.