In IMA scam, discrepancy in seized Excel document on ‘bribes’ raises doubthttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-ima-scam-discrepancy-in-seized-excel-document-on-bribes-raises-doubt-6054343/

In IMA scam, discrepancy in seized Excel document on ‘bribes’ raises doubt

According to sources, one reason why concerns about alleged tampering emerged was because the laptop used by a director of the firm, Naveed Ahmed, on which the spreadsheet was kept and accessed, was used by an SIT, then probing the case. The laptop was used by the SIT even after it was seized for investigations, sources said.

The document on Khan and Ahmed maintained details of alleged bribes they paid to keep the company’s Ponzi scheme afloat is one of the key documents that the CBI is using to track the trail of alleged illegal payments made.

Multiple versions of an Excel document (spreadsheet), in which top management people of I Monetary Advisory (IMA) Pvt Ltd maintained records of alleged payments to politicians, policemen and government officials, has raised doubts that the document may have been tampered with, according to sources.

The IMA Group is accused of cheating more than 40,000 investors to the tune of more than Rs 1,400 crore through Ponzi schemes, dubbed as being Sharia-complaint. Names of top Karnataka politicians and officials have emerged as alleged beneficiaries of the scam.

The B S Yeddiyurappa government had transferred the probe to CBI in August.

According to sources, one reason why concerns about alleged tampering emerged was because the laptop used by a director of the firm, Naveed Ahmed, on which the spreadsheet was kept and accessed, was used by an SIT, then probing the case. The laptop was used by the SIT even after it was seized for investigations, sources said.

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Entries in the document in the seized laptop belonging to Ahmed, who has been arrested, do not match with versions of the document in a Gmail account of IMA founder Mohammed Mansoor Khan, who was arrested from Dubai by the SIT before the CBI took over the probe, sources said.

The document on Khan and Ahmed maintained details of alleged bribes they paid to keep the company’s Ponzi scheme afloat is one of the key documents that the CBI is using to track the trail of alleged illegal payments made.

The spreadsheet was also central to investigations carried out by the SIT, which was set up during the tenure of then Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy. Based on entries on the spreadsheet, the SIT probe had brought under the scanner leaders such as former state ministers and Congress leaders R Roshan Baig and Zameer Ahmed Khan, and several police and government officials.

“There seem to be multiple versions of the document, with some names missing or added in the different versions. Zameer Khan’s name was missing from one of the versions,” a source said.

According to some versions of the document, payments were allegedly made by Khan to Income Tax Department officials and others in the state government of the time.

The source said, “The Excel file found in the laptop of the IMA official is the key document. It has details of (alleged) fund transfers, who collected the funds, and on whose behalf the money was collected. The ones in Khan’s email have fewer details.”

An SIT official involved with the probe admitted that some procedural lapses occurred in the course of their probe but emphasised that there has been “no tampering”. The official said: “When the seized laptop was accessed for investigation, it was documented in the case diary. When it was sent to the forensic lab for analysis, instances when it had been accessed after seizure was indicated.”

A source involved with the SIT investigation said, “Ideally, contents of the seized laptop should have been mirrored to another computer and then accessed for investigation. An error occurred to that extent. This is not unusual and courts do allow material to be used for further probe if it is clearly stated at the time of seizure.”

The CBI has now sent all computers seized in the IMA case to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis.

In recent weeks, the CBI has questioned Zameer Khan, IAS officer Rajkumar Khatri and IPS officers Hemanth Nimbalkar and Ajay Hillori regarding the case.

“While names of several people are mentioned as receiving payments – ranging from Rs 400 crore to a politician to Rs 30 crore to a police officer – the probe has not been able to find trails for all payments documented in the records. A (money) trail has been found in some of those instances,” a source familiar with the probe said.

The SIT had named 25 people in the IMA scam. These include promotee IAS officer B M Vijayshankar, who was Deputy Commissioner of Bengaluru urban district at the time, and Revenue Department’s assistant commissioner L C Nagaraj for allegedly taking a bribe amounting to Rs 5 crore in 2018 to prevent a clampdown on the IMA Group’s Ponzi scheme.

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Vijayshankar and Nagaraj, who were arrested by the SIT, were not named in the CBI chargesheet filed last month.