The committee probing the veracity of a leaked audio clip, in which former vice-chairman and managing director of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) Radheshyam Mopalwar allegedly discussed a financial deal, has found that while the voice on the tape may be “similar” to that of Mopalwar, the clip might have been edited with certain “deletions and additions”, doubting its “integrity”. The committee has relied on the report by the Mumbai Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to base its findings.
“The FSL report suggests that while the voice in the audio clip is ‘similar’ to that of Mopalwar, it cannot be conclusively said that it is his. This is because the audio clip taken by the committee is from news channels, which are not the ‘first level of audio’ and, therefore, cannot be conclusively stated if it is ‘the same’ as the voice samples of the subject. Also, the clip in which Mopalwar is allegedly speaking about a land deal is not seamless and it is suspected that the detective has edited and joined bits of different conversations to make it sound as one coherent conversation. The FSL has raised doubts on the integrity of the clip,” said an official privy to the details, not wishing to be named.
Explaining how the audio clip leaked to the press could be edited, the official added, “In the first part of the leaked audio tape, Mopalwar is referring to his relative and subsequently he speaks about money that needs to be collected from the said relative. He then goes on to talk about the land deal linked to a project and is heard seeking Rs 1 crore and making reference to the money to be paid at the state secretariat. All these sound disjointed conversations, not connected to each other but strung together as one seamless audio clip,” added the official.
While sources said the Mumbai FSL report was inconclusive, the report from a private forensic analyser submitted by the complainant, detective Satish Mangle, stated that the “audio clip has not been edited”. In September, Mangle had submitted the report before the committee.
Earlier this month, both Mangle and his wife Shraddha were arrested by the Thane police in connection with a complaint filed by Mopalwar, who accused the couple of blackmailing him and demanding Rs 10 crore from him. The Thane police have now slapped provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case.
The sources added that the three-member committee might, however, advise the state government to probe if Mopalwar’s assets were disproportionate in nature. “After assessing the statements recorded by the committee, if there is a need to probe Mopalwar for disproportionate assets, the same would be suggested by the committee,” added the official.
After an uproar in the Monsoon Session of the state legislature, the government had constituted the three-member committee to verify the authenticity of the recordings and probe whether the corruption charges are linked to Mopalwar’s role as vice-chairman and managing director of MSRDC. Mopalwar was at the helm of the Rs 46,000-crore Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Corridor project.
The three-member committee is headed by retired bureaucrat Johny Joseph. The other two members are Additional Commissioner of Police R D Shinde and Deputy Commissioner of Police Parag Manere. The committee has been convening meetings at its south Mumbai office. They are in possession of over 35 unverified audio clips purported to be recordings of phone conversations between Mopalwar and Mangle.
When reached for a comment, Joseph confirmed to have received the FSL report but refused to comment further. “We have received the report. It is technical in nature and is being studied,” he told The Indian Express.
The Case So Far
- There was an uproar in the Maharashtra legislature during its Monsoon Session after audio tapes surfaced in which Radheshyam Mopalwar was allegedly heard discussing a financial matter.
- In August, the Maharashtra govt sent Mopalwar, who was at the helm of the Rs 46,000-crore Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Corridor project, on leave.
- The state, through a notification issued on August 29, constituted a three-member committee headed by former bureaucrat Johny Joseph to probe the case.
- Mopalwar deposed before the committee, and claimed the tapes were doctored.
- The committee got an extension, told to submit report by November 30.
- On November 3, detective Satish Mangle, complainant in the case, was arrested on charges of blackmailing and extortion.