Sleuths from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) swooped down on several towns and cities across Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, launching simultaneous search operations as part of its probe into the multi-layered Vyapam exam-rigging scam.
The massive search operations, launched in at least 40 places in the two states, are the first major visible field activity by the CBI since it was asked by the Supreme Court in July to probe what has emerged as one of the biggest corruption scandals in Madhya Pradesh.
A CBI spokesperson confirmed the search operations but refused to divulge anything beyond saying that they began in the morning and was likely to continue throughout the day.
Sources in the agency said search operations were on in places like Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Rewa and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh besides in Allahabad and Lucknow in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
The scam, which saw racketeers employ fake candidates to sit for exams on behalf of people seeking admission in professional medical courses and government jobs, allegedly involved many people from Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar.
The sources said that besides examining documents and other evidence at the search locations, CBI officials were also interrogating suspects.
Many of the more than 1,000 accused who are in jail would also be quizzed, sources added.
The agency is investigating all cases pertaining to rigging recruitment examinations and entrance tests of dozens of examinations held between 2004 and 2012.
The CBI is also probing several mysterious deaths linked to the scam. The opposition Congress and whistle-blowers have been saying that the death of around 40 people, linked to the scam in some way, was an attempt to silence key witnesses.
Following the Supreme Court order, the CBI has started registering FIRs after taking over the cases from a Special Task Force (STF) which had probed the scam earlier.
Sources said the agency had also been collecting documents and other evidence to build a fool-proof case.