A day after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided the premises of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) in Mohali and registered a case against its officiating director KK Bhutani, and seven others for allegedly causing a loss of crores of rupees to the government exchequer, CBI sleuths stopped a press conference on the campus by Bhutani on Saturday and took him with them.
The press meet was billed as being about the silver jubilee celebrations of the foundation day of the institute that commence from Monday. He was still interacting with the media when a team of the CBI came in and asked Bhutani to accompany them. The CBI reportedly sent in a message objecting to Bhutani holding the press conference; but when it wasn’t stopped, the sleuths walked in and asked Bhutani to accompany them.
The CBI searches did cast a shadow on the media interaction as it began with Bhutani referring to “incidents” happening at the institute. “All the dealings are clear, and I will answer all your queries. The searches are to malign me as well as institute,” he reiterated.
When HT later called him, Bhutani said the CBI officers had taken him to his office on the campus where they wanted to conduct some search. CBI officers went incommunicado. “The show will go on,” Bhutani had said while leaving the convention hall along with the CBI team.
Besides Bhutani, the central investigating agency has booked NIPER registrar and chief vigilance officer (CVO) Wing Cdr PJP Singh Waraich (retd), then director Rama Rao, then section officer Hardip Singh, then deputy registrar Rajesh Moza, professor Saranjit Singh, along with a private firm based at Thorat Colony, Erandwane, Pune (Maharashtra) and other unknown persons.
The CBI claimed it had recovered fixed deposit receipts (FDRs) of ` 13 lakh (approx), bank balance of ` 25 lakh and documents of property worth ` 50 lakh from Bhutani’s residence. The investigating agency also recovered documents of five properties worth ` 1.5 crore from Waraich’s residence.
The case has been registered under Sections 120-B r/w 420, 409, 467, 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 13(2) read with 13(1)(c) & 1(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. A preliminary enquiry was conducted by the CBI, Chandigarh branch.
The CBI said NIPER officials entered into a criminal conspiracy with a private firm based in Pune for the purchase of database “SciFinder” on exorbitant rates in 2006 causing loss to the state exchequer. It was also alleged that NIPER officials and officials of the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers, New Delhi, caused a loss of crores of rupees to the state exchequer by way of misappropriation of funds, falsification of accounts and diversion of funds from approved project to unapproved items.
The CBI teams conducted simultaneous searches at 22 places, including Chandigarh, SAS Nagar, Bathinda, Kurukshetra, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, New Delhi and Bhopal. This included residential and official premises of the accused.