Srijan scam: Arrest warrants issued against NGO founder’s son, daughter-in-law
The Srijan Mahila Sahyog Samiti is accused of working in cahoots with bankers and treasury officials to illegally divert government funds into its own accounts. Besides Amit and Priya Kumar, a warrant has also been issued against Bhagalpur public grievances redressal officer Rajeev Ranjan Singh.
The Bhagalpur chief judicial magistrate issued arrest warrants against three people in connection with the multi-crore Srijan fund transfer scam on Wednesday evening.
The accused were identified as Amit and Priya Kumar, the son and daughter-in-law of Srijan Mahila Sahyog Samiti founder Manorama Devi, and Bhagalpur public grievances redressal officer Rajeev Ranjan Singh.
The NGO is accused of working in cahoots with bankers and treasury officials to illegally divert government funds into its own accounts. The scam, estimated at over Rs 700 crore, first came to light when a government cheque presented to a Bhagalpur bank bounced due to insufficient funds on August 3.
Amit and Priya had taken over the reins of the NGO after the demise of Devi in February. Lookout notices have been issued against the duo to ensure they do not leave the country. Singh used to be a land acquisition officer at Bhagalpur.
Investigators have also found a December 2003 letter from the then Bhagalpur district magistrate KP Ramaiah, advising district officials to encourage the NGO by opening accounts in its ‘cooperative bank’. As many as 10 people have come under the scanner in connection with the alleged scam, which the state opposition has compared with Madhya Pradesh’s Vyapam controversy.
Ramaiah, incidentally, had contested unsuccessfully on a Janata Dal (United) ticket in the 2014 elections from Sasaram — a constituency reserved for scheduled caste candidates.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has been on the offensive in the state assembly for over three days now, raising fears that the five-day monsoon session may come a cropper. It has demanded the resignations of chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi for their alleged involvement in the scam.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad has even alleged foul play in the death of Mahesh Mandal, a welfare department official accused in the fund transfer scam. Mandal had succumbed to chronic kidney disease on August 20.
The Bhagalpur district magistrate had initially appointed a three-member committee led by deputy development commissioner Amit Kumar to investigate the Srijan scam. The probe revealed that certain fraudsters illegally transferred government funds to the NGO’s accounts by forging the district magistrate’s signature. It also found that the scam has now spread to multiple departments beyond the geographical boundaries of Bhagalpur. The state government transferred Amit Kumar as the district magistrate of Lakhisarai on August 18.
Besides diverting government funds, the NGO is accused of avoiding government audits between 2007 and 2014 by fudging bank passbooks while continuing to earn interest on the principal amount.
Eleven FIRs have been filed and 18 people arrested in the scam until now. The state government has recommended a CBI probe into the matter.