Entrusted with quality control in the Bank Note Press (BNP) in Dewas, Manohar Verma was meant to ensure that defective currency notes were separated after printing and destroyed following a due procedure.
Working for 33 years, Verma, now 55, had risen from lower division clerk to deputy control officer, senior enough to be spared the frisking others are subjected when they go home after work. He was also aware about the movement of CISF guards, the precise area covered by CCTV cameras and of a large pillar in the corridor — and, police say, the fact that the pillar helped escape surveillance. It was his frequent movements near the pillar, where he would bend and drop something in a wooden box, that a guard found suspicious. The next morning, the CISF stilled one of the moving CCTV cameras.
Verma, who was nabbed by CISF and later handed over to the Madhya Pradesh police, reportedly confessed that he would drop a bundle or two of defective notes in the box, and later pick these up and put them in lockers and drawers in his office. Police say he would hide them in his shoes on the way home, and, when it was cold, even stuff some notes into his vest, the bulge covered by the jacket. When junior employees go home, they are made to remove their shoes and outer clothes if security staff find anything amiss.
In a brief interaction with the media the day of his arrest, Verma claimed he was innocent and had been framed. Asked about the reported recovery of notes from his home and office, he repeatedly said, “I will say only in court whatever I have to say.”
Police say they found Rs 26.09 lakh in Rs 500 and Rs 200 notes from his office drawers, and more in beds and cupboards from his house in Saketnagar. The total seizure cited, Rs 90.59 lakh, was roughly equal to his retirement and other savings. When he was produced in court a few days later, he was reportedly anxious to know if his dismissal would require him to part with his legal savings.
Most such notes would have been accepted by vendors because only an expert eye can instantly spot the defects. Police believe Verma spent less than Rs 20,000 a month on petrol, grocery or vegetables, using only the notes that he was certain would not get him into trouble. “Investigation so far suggests he had no accomplice. The volume of rejected notes is much more but he would take away only a few notes after noting down the serial numbers and before the notes were sent for shredding,’’ said additional SP Antil Patidar, heading the special investigation team.
The SIT found that Verma does not have a criminal past. His seniors told investigators Verma’s previous record was clean and there were no complaints about his conduct.
When the police were searching his home, Verma allegedly tried to mislead them about the number of notes but confessed when told that his wife and daughter too would be made an accused. He claimed his wife was not aware of his actions.
Dewas SP Anshuman Singh said there is no evidence that Verma used the defective notes in bulk. He said once home, he would further screen the notes to select those he could use. Singh said the officer was very careful when he began stealing notes a few months ago, but later got “reckless”.
Singh said the police are yet to get the standard operating procedure about frisking and checks for officers and staff at BNP, set up in 1974. “We want to know if officers were exempted from checks by a written order when they leave for home,” the SP said.
Despite repeated attempts, senior officials at the BNP could not be contacted for their version to know if the security protocol had been changed in the wake of the incident and the number of staff members suspended for negligence.
Verma has been charged only with theft now. If a large number of currency notes he allegedly stole are found in use, however, more charges would be pressed, police said.
Spread over 185 hectares, BNP comes under Security, Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited and is one of nine facilities – four mints, four presses, one paper mill. It earlier functioned under the Union Finance Ministry before SPMCIL was formed in 2006 under the Companies Act.