Around five months after 25 lakh empty jute bags caught fire in a sub-yard of agriculture produce market committee (APMC), the ‘B’ Division police station in the city on Friday booked three persons, including two top officers of Gujarat State Co-Operative Cotton Federation Limited (GUJCOT), accusing them of being part of a criminal conspiracy to set the stock on fire to cover up malpractice in purchase.
The FIR comes two days after the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory in Rajkot concluded that the fire was intentional.
Inspector Rakesh Thakar filed a complaint Friday night, and named Manoj Brahmbhatt, general manager (operations) of GUJCOT, Magan Zalavadiya, GUJCOT warehousing manager for Saurashtra zone, and Paresh Shankharva, an aide of Zalavadiya. This is the second FIR in connection with the fire on March 13. And the third case in which Zalavadiya has been booked.
‘B’ division police of Rajkot city had registered a non-cognizable offence and launched a primary enquiry. Experts of FSL, Rajkot, had joined the enquiry and they submitted their report to the city police on August 28.
“Based on videos and photographs of the incident of fire on jute bags stored at the APMC godown in Rajkot on March 13, forensic sciences officers have concluded that prima facie there were around 15 lakh bags instead of 19.5 lakh bags, which should have been there as per official records. Additionally, Manoj Brahmbhatt, general manger (operations) of GUJCOT, has made personal financial gains in the purchase of these jute bags and therefore, he will be arrested,” Commissioner of Police (CP) of Rajkot city, Manoj Agrawal, said at a press conference.
Agrawal said the offence was revealed during investigation of a case registered on August 19 after Zalavadiya and seven others allegedly sold 34,500 jute bags without following due procedure and pocketed the proceeds. These three truckloads of bags were salvaged from the stock, which had caught fire in APMC godown. Police had booked Zalavadiya, a GUJCOT officer named Manoj, four aides and relatives of Zalavadiya and two traders. Police had arrested Zalavadiya and seven others, who are in judicial custody at present.
While probing the unauthorised sale of bags, the police questioned top GUJCOT officers, including its managing director Narmadashankar Sharma, Brahmbhatt, general manager (purchase) manager Manoj Vyas etc. The police then stumbled upon the case of alleged irregularities in purchase of the bags and the conspiracy to set the stock on fire.
In his complaint, Thakar stated that while reviewing tendering documents, it was found that Brahmbhatt had not followed due procedure while purchasing the bags from eight private firms and had received kickbacks.