Over 10 years and across two governments, of JD(U)-BJP and the RJD-JDU, one Bhagalpur NGO allegedly siphoned off an estimated Rs 700 crore of public funds. Nine FIRs and 12 arrests later, the Bihar government ordered a CBI probe Thursday. An investigation by The Indian Express of police records, bank statements and interviews with key officials reveals how the little-known NGO, Srijan Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti Limited, providing vocational training to women and selling pickles, allegedly pilfered funds from Bhagalpur district administration’s various accounts for at least half a dozen welfare schemes. All with the alleged connivance of government officials, bank employees and, of course, Srijan’s own staff.
Three such cases of money transfer, as per FIRs, best illustrate the nature of the pilferage.
Case One: On September 27, 2014, Bhagalpur’s Tilkamanjji branch of the Oriental Bank of Commerce issued a cheque of Rs 12.20 crore. The cheque was presented at Indian Bank’s Patal Babu Road branch to be deposited in an account of the Mukhyamantri Nagar Vikas Yojana. But Indian Bank deposited the amount into Srijan’s account — Srijan was registered as a cooperative society barely three days after the cheque was issued. The deposit happened despite the fact that a third-party deposit, allowed after due endorsement until 2008, had been declared illegal by RBI to prevent money laundering.
Case Two: The Bhagalpur administration presented three cheques on September 1, 3 and 6, 2016 of cumulative value of Rs 5.5 crore at Indian Bank for deposit into the Mukhyamantri Nagar Vikas Yojana account. The funds were duly deposited but were later transferred to Srijan’s account via three cheques with allegedly “forged signatures” of the District Magistrate.
Case Three: On November 10, 2016, Chief Medical Officer, Bhagalpur, presented three cheques of cumulative value of Rs 43.52 lakh at Bank of Baroda’s Ghanta Ghar branch to be deposited in the government account. The cheques were rejected and returned on December 22, 2016 — but not before the funds were moved to Srijan’s accounts.
Case after such case is coming to light in the ongoing investigation that echoes the fodder scam with one twist: the fodder scam was related to withdrawal from district treasuries against fake bills and in Srijan’s case, it is, as per the FIRs, direct transfer of public funds to private accounts.
The second method is via the “forged cheque.” Under this, for any government account, a valid cheque series is issued but a duplicate cheque series is also released and given to Srijan which would forge the DM’s signature to transfer the funds into its account, said Kumar. At the two bank branches under probe, Indian Bank’s Patal Babu Road branch and Bank of Baroda’s Ghanta Ghar branch, both government and Srijan kept accounts. The police have seized several cheque books from government offices having Srijan bank account numbers written overleaf. The scam first came to light after a government cheque of Rs 270 crore — meant to be paid to farmers in return for their land for a power plant — bounced on August 4.
Source: Indian Express