His friends and relatives couldn’t believe it when Saji Mohan, former zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Chandigarh, was recently arrested for possessing heroin in Mumbai. How could they accuse an upright officer like Mohan of something so disgraceful?
Some remember him as a smart go-getter, while others talk of him as a good athlete, a man full of enthusiasm for life. “He was really smart and ambitious. He was good at convincing others quickly,” a police officer a year senior to the 1995-batch officer from the Jammu and Kashmir cadre recalls. “During his training at the IPS Academy in Hyderabad, he would participate in every activity. However after his Chandigarh posting, he put on a lot of weight. It didn’t suit him at all, we all would all tell him.”
The son of an army officer, Verghese Yohannan (now retired subedar major), from Pat-hanamthitta in central Kerala, Saji was good at studies. He studied veterinary science in college, and stood first in Jabalpur University. He then went on to work in a government veterinary hospital in Attapadi, in the Palakkad district of Kerala, in 1992.
Saji wanted to become an army officer following in his father’s footsteps. “A hard-working person, he was trying for both the Officers’ Training Academy and the civil services. Once he cleared the civil service in 1993, he opted for IPS,” says his uncle Chacko Verghese, who refused to talk about his nephew when HT first requested him. “We have no idea what really happened,” he adds. “Enough stories are coming out. But I am sure my nephew will be the last person to do such a disgraceful thing. I feel he was trapped. Check his records since childhood; you can see what kind of person he is.”
As director of the Chandigarh NCB zonal office for about two years (2006-2008), Saji was occasionally seen at city discotheques and late night parties with ‘close associates’, disclose police sources in Chandigarh. Saji came to the limelight in Chandigarh when he arrested Harpal Singh, alias Raju, a well-known drug smuggler with operations in Punjab.
His other big catch was drug peddler Paramjit Singh of Attari village in Amritsar. Sources reveal Saji himself sought a transfer out of Chandigarh; he was posted as deputy director of the Enforcement Directorate in Kochi at the time of his arrest.
However, Saji never displayed the lavish lifestyle that many now believe he had. His family members say that if there was any basis to the allegations of drug running, there would at least have been some indication of ill-gotten money. “He still uses the Maruti Zen he bought 11 years ago at the time of his marriage. Saji recently purchased a flat in Kochi for which he took a big loan. His father had to sell his ancestral property to help him out on the purchase. If he had enough money, he would not have struggled to buy a three bedroom flat,” says Verghese, denying reports that Saji fled to Kochi to escape his trail in Chandigarh.
“His father-in-law died in December. His father is a diabetic and his mother is a heart patient. These factors forced him to come to Kochi and settle here,” Verghese says.
Saji’s wife is a homemaker and the couple has two sons. His only sister, an electrical engineer, lives in Dubai. Saji’s father Verghese Yohannan rushed to Mumbai after hearing of his arrest.