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Balganga scam: ACB yet to find a clear money trail

The ACB went on to arrest five accused in the case, and more arrests are expected as the investigation progresses.

Written by Gautam S Mengle | Mumbai | Published: September 7, 2015 2:14:39 am

The Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which is investigating the alleged Balganga dam scam in Raigad, has failed to find a clear trail of money from the contractor to the politicians associated with the project, in the absence of which the ACB does not have enough evidence to indict them.

On August 25, the ACB had registered an FIR against six government servants and five partners with a private contractor for alleged misconduct in connection with awarding of the contract for the dam over the Balganga river in Raigad. The ACB went on to arrest five accused in the case, and more arrests are expected as the investigation progresses.

The then water resources minister Ajit Pawar, however, has not been named as an accused in the FIR. The FIR only mentions that the project was approved at a meeting chaired by Pawar.

Officials said that in order to book any government servant as an accused, investigations would have to establish that not only rules were flouted in awarding the contract, but also that illegal gratification was received in return. The fact that the contractor, F A Khatri, has dealt mostly in cash, makes ACB’s work harder.

Khatri was arrested on the same evening that the FIR was registered and is currently in judicial custody. “The bulk of the funds sent by the government, which was around Rs 494 crore in total, was first moved to the accounts of dummy companies by cheque and then withdrawn from these accounts in cash. The trail of money disappears after that. Apart from one instance where Khatri paid for plane tickets for some of the accused from his account, there is no other evidence of monetary gratification so far,” said an ACB officer.

The officer added that in the absence of concrete evidence like bank account transactions or other documentary evidence showing that kickbacks have been received, naming anyone as an accused would not be feasible as it would not hold ground in court.

As a result, a decision was taken to only book those KIDC employees against whom there is concrete evidence of gross misconduct in connivance with Khatri.

“In the case against NCP leader Chhagan Bhubal, we were able to find a clear money trail from the accounts of the contractor K S Chamankar to accounts owned by the Bhujbal family which, coupled with the fact that Bhujbal himself called a meeting and approved awarding the contract to Chamankar, was sufficient as evidence,” the officer said.

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