FOR THE 20 years that he had been on the run after being booked on cheating and corruption charges in 1999 when he was a customs department official, Abhinav Singh worked at multiple medical institutions, prescribed medicines and performed duties as an associate professor in the general medicines department as Dr Rajiv Gupta. On Friday, special CBI judge S U Wadgaonkar convicted him for criminal conspiracy that led to losses to the customs department to the tune of Rs 4.28 crore in 1999.
The court has directed Singh to pay Rs 9 lakh in fine and sentenced him to jail for a period that he has already spent in prison since his arrest on March 4, 2019. This means the 15 months he spent in jail will be considered as his jail term for the offences he has been found guilty of.
At the time of his arrest in March last year, Singh was working as an associate professor at K D Medical College, Hospital & Research Center in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. The CBI submitted to the court that Singh was working at the Mathura college, one of the largest private medical institutes in the town, since 2017. While applying for the job, Singh had provided documents of previous experience at other medical institutions across the country, the CBI submitted. Singh had impersonated himself as Dr Gupta, his relative based in the United States, and had even managed to procure identity cards in that name, the probe agency had told the court.
While it has not emerged how Singh had managed to evade the law for 20 years, the 54-year-old was arrested last year after the agency received a tip-off about his whereabouts.
Based on the deposition of his four former colleagues, including the head of general medicine department at the Mathura college, who said that they knew Singh as Dr Gupta and submitted his documents, the special judge order stated Singh was working with a “pseudo-identity” to evade trial.
“…Evidence of these witnesses is sufficient to conclude that Abhinav Singh was working with a pseudo-identity to avoid himself for the trial, concealing his presence and avoided his arrest impersonating himself as Dr Rajiv Gupta,” the court said. His colleagues told the court that Singh lived in the staff quarters and performed duties as a medical expert.
The CBI, however, did not charge him for the alleged impersonation after arresting him last year. Since his arrest, the CBI, through special public prosecutor Jitendra Sharma, has forwarded relevant documents on Singh to the local police authorities in Mathura for further action. CBI told the court that taking over Gupta’s identity, ensured that Singh remained untraced for 20 years despite working within the country. He was even quoted by the media in news reports in 2018 as Dr Gupta when a complaint of alleged medical negligence was reported at the Mathura institute.
In his bail application before the Bombay High Court last year, Singh had said he was not absconding but had moved to Mathura “because of pressure from superiors”. CBI had opposed the plea stating Singh would abscond again if released. His bail plea was subsequently rejected.
Singh, who was lodged in Arthur Road jail since March last year, had also written to the court after the Covid-19 outbreak that since the jail was overcrowded, the judgment in his case be expedited. With the final arguments in the case was completed, the court passed the order on Friday.
A lawyer who represented Singh earlier said that for the past few months, Singh was appearing in-person and representing himself in court.
Allegations against Singh date back to 1997-98 when he was working as an appraising officer in the Customs Department at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. In 1999, the department filed a complaint that losses to the tune of Rs 4.28 crore have been caused to the government by forgery of shipping bills and bank documents.
The CBI claimed that four fictitious companies were formed and its so-called directors had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Singh to derive pecuniary advantage by obtaining 18 Duty Entitlement Pass Book scrips even though there was no export being done.
An FIR was filed but Singh then absconded and was declared a proclaimed offender
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