March 15, 2021 8:50:53 pm
Pune City Police on Monday told a city court that one of the two Army Majors arrested in the soldier recruitment paper leak case had promised the other Rs 25 lakh for the leaked paper. The police also said that with the help of cyber experts, they have recovered deleted data and conversations from the phones of the suspects.
The two Army officers — Major Thiru Murugan Thangavelu (47) and Major Vasant Vijay Kilari (45) — arrested over last week in connection to the paper leak, were produced before the court in Pune on Monday after the prior police custodies ended.
The court, presided over by Additional Sessions Judge S R Navandar, which has jurisdiction over anti-corruption cases, remanded the duo to further police custody till March 20 after hearing the plea from prosecution for extension of their custodial remand and arguments from defence lawyers opposing it.
Investigating Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police Laxman Borate, produced the two Majors before the court and sought extension of their custodial remand for further probe. The police told the court through prosecution counsel Premkumar Agarwal, “The probe till now has revealed that Thangavelu had promised Rs 25 lakh to Kilari in return of the leaked question paper. Further, Kilari had promised same amount to another wanted suspect whom we have identified, in exchange of the paper.”
Sources have told The Indian Express that the wanted suspect is a retired Army personnel and a search has been launched for him. Officials also clarified that while the leaked paper did exchange hands prior to the exam, money transactions were to happen post examination. However. the racket was busted when sleuths from Military Intelligence of the Army conducted a joint operation with Pune Police and seized the question papers.
Police say their probe into the main source of the leak and subsequent channels of transaction is ongoing. Including the wanted ex-serviceman, investigators have identified four suspects, search for whom is currently on.
The prosecution further submitted to court, “The arrested suspects in the case had deleted the data from the their phones. We have recovered the data with the help of cyber experts. We have recovered conversations between Thangavelu and Kilari, which is in Tamil. We want to get it translated and question the two further. Currently they are not giving any information useful to the probe.”
Defence counsels, advocates Rahul Deshmukh for Kilari and RA Lonandkar for Thanavelu, argued that the data had been already recovered and police custody was not warranted for translation of Tamil conversation and probe thereafter. Additional Sessions Judge S R Navandar ruled that police custody was required for further probe and extended it till March 20.
Meanwhile, another arrested suspect in the case, Bharat Adakmol, was remanded to judicial custody of 14 days.
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The pan-India Common Entrance Exam (CEE) for recruitment of Soldiers (General Duty) was scheduled to be conducted by the Army on February 28. This particular process was referred to as ‘relation recruitment’, as this drive was for those who have immediate relatives in the Army. The written exam was to be conducted at 40 exam centres across India and around 30,000 aspirants were to appear for it. The paper seized in the joint operation turned out to be a complete match for the original paper, following which the Army cancelled the entire process.
After the leak came to light, Pune Police registered two separate offences at Wanawadi and Vishrantwadi police stations in Pune city, denoting probes by two separate teams of the Crime Branch into the paper leak in the same examination process. Till now, three persons have been arrested in the case registered at Vishrantwadi police station. The probe into the case at Wanawadi police station has seen a total of seven arrests till now including the serving Majors –Thangavelu posted in Tamil Nadu and Kilari posted in Delhi — and two serving soldiers currently in Pune. The three others arrested include two civilians and one ex-serviceman.
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