Police have booked more than two dozen people in connection with the alleged siphoning of Rs 350 crore of government funds by a Bhagalpur-based NGO, Srijan Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti, between 2008 and 2017.
The accused include district administration officials, bank officials and NGO employees. Seven people, mostly government employees, have been arrested.
Bhagalpur SSP Manoj Kumar told reporters on Friday that three FIRs had been lodged and two more would be filed soon. “Investigations have revealed that two methods were used for siphoning funds. The first is ‘sweep’ method, in which the fund is directly credited to bank accounts of Srijan under possibly a direct understanding between the district magistrate’s office and the bank.
The second method is a transfer through forged cheques,” Kumar said. The alleged scam came to light after cheques issued by Srijan bounced after the death of the NGO’s founder-secretary Manorama Devi early this year. When Bhagalpur DM Aadesh Titarmare alerted the state government, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar asked the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) to probe the matter, the police said. EOU IG Jitendra Gangwar is leading the probe.
According to the findings, Rs 270 crore from the Bhagalpur district land acquisition fund was illegally transferred or directly deposited in the Ghanta Ghar branch of Bank of Baroda, where both Srijan and the district administration have accounts. Similarly, Rs 14.8 crore was allegedly siphoned from the government account at the Nazareth branch to Srijan’s account at Bank of Baroda’s Ghanta Ghar branch. Another Rs 10.26 crore from Mukhyamantri Nagar Vikas Yojana was cleared from the government account at Indian Bank’s Patal Babu Road branch to Srijan’s account at the same branch.
A police officer said: “We have so far learnt about six bank accounts of Srijan in which government money has been kept on a regular basis without any check from the DM’s office. The DM’s digital or manual signature is needed to transfer or withdraw from government bank accounts. It looks like a nexus between district administration employees, bankers and Srijan.”
The role of eight DMs who were posted in Bhagalpur since 2008 is under the scanner. “It takes at least two bank employees, a clerical staffer or accountant and branch manager to effect such a fraud,” said a bank manager.
Working on the pattern of a self-help group, the NGO began running a cooperative bank in contravention of RBI norms, police said. It had not been entrusted with government works.