The Enforcement Directorate (ED) closed in on former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda Friday when it made its first arrest in the Rs.2,500 crore money laundering scam by nabbing the brother of the politician's close associate.
"We have arrested Vikas Sinha," Prabha Kant, deputy director, ED, told reporters in Ranchi. Vikas Sinha is the brother of Vinod Sinha, who according to income tax (IT) officials is the kingpin of the scam and a good friend of Lok Sabha MP Koda.
Koda, who is still at Ranchi's Apollo Hospital, is trying to buy time, investigators said. He will in all likelihood be put through a narco test once he is formally arrested, sources in the ED told IANS.
"Koda and his associates are buying time to delay the investigation. After formally arresting him, the ED can move court seeking his narco test. There is another option of a lie detector machine. Before formal arrest, the IT could use a lie detector machine to interrogate Koda," an informed source told IANS.
The IT department had raided Vikas Sinha's house in Jamshedpur and he was brought to Ranchi and arrested by the ED. According to top officials, the ED will seek court permission to also conduct a narco test on Vikas Sinha.
So far the ED has also served notices on three former ministers in the Koda cabinet, summoning them to New Delhi for interrogation from Nov 10 to 12 with details of their assets and investments. These are Kamlesh Singh, Bhanu Pratap Shahi and Bandhu Tirkey.
As the magnitude of the multi-crore scam gradually unravels, investigators believe that it was a well-oiled racket that helped Koda and his key associates funnel money abroad.
"There could be more political figures and officials who could be ensnared in this investigation. This will take time as Koda's mining interests have spread far and wide," a key investigator told IANS.
Koda was on Thursday shifted from the ICU to the general ward of the Apollo Hospital.
The decision to discharge Koda, now an independent MP, who had been admitted after he complained of high blood pressure, nausea and a stomachache, would be taken in a day or two after doctors review his condition.
His personal secretary Harendra Singh is also in the IT department's custody. He is said to have surrendered and was brought to the Ranchi IT office under heavy security.
More people are likely to be arrested.
In a related development, BJP leader Manohar Parrikar said Koda could have mining interests to the tune of Rs.400 crore in Goa.
Parrikar, who is leader of opposition in the Goa assembly, noted that Koda would visit Goa at least once every month allegedly to pursue his mining interests.
"What I am saying is that Madhu Koda's roots are in Goa. The more his case is probed by the Enforcement Directorate, more things will come out," Parrikar said, while commenting on Koda's mining interests abroad, which were being investigated.
On Oct 9, the ED had lodged a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Koda, the three former ministers as well as his associates Vinod Sinha and Chaudhary.
The ED has found alleged illegal transactions worth Rs.2, 500 crore, including Rs.550 crore sent to places like Dubai, Thailand, Liberia and Malaysia, through hawala, or money laundering channels.