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After graft, liaison lady picked up for assault

Lucknow, Sept. 1: Bhawna Pandey, who made headlines after she was arrested in connection with a corruption case against then chairman of the Central Excise and Customs Board B.P. Verma, has resurfaced in Lucknow — once again behind bars.

This time, Bhawna has been charged with threatening the state excise commissioner and assaulting women police personnel who had gone to apprehend her from a hotel.

The Lucknow court, where the police produced her yesterday, has remanded her in judicial custody for 14 days. An application has been filed for her remand in police custody till some recoveries are made from her residences in Delhi and Nainital. The court will decide tomorrow.

The eldest sibling among six sisters and one brother, she hails from Kumaon Hills in Uttaranchal. Hers is the story of a small town spinster — and a graduate of the Kumaon University — trying to make it big in big cities.

A high-profile liaison officer working for a Delhi-based company, Bhawna grabbed media attention when the CBI arrested her in Mumbai last year for bribing Verma. Later, investigations established that she worked in connivance with him and was liaisoning for many companies. Subsequently, she was arrested and made a co-accused in another case against Verma for being in possession of disproportionate assets, including a house and an apparel export unit in Delhi.

On Thursday night, Bhawna was detained again, this time from a hotel here on a complaint lodged by Uttar Pradesh excise commissioner A.K. Gupta, DIG Arun Kumar confirmed.

According to the police, Bhawna had threatened the excise commissioner after he refused to allot a contract relating to publication of hologram — mandatory on all liquor bottles in the state — to a Delhi-based company recommended by her.

The case seems to have become curious from the word go. Based on Gupta’s complaint, the police registered an FIR, but the excise commissioner did a volte face the very next day, contending that he had only made a protest to the DIG and not filed an FIR.

Bhawna had met Gupta in the office of state excise minister Naseerudin Siddiqui. Although the excise commissioner denies contacting her thereafter, Bhawna told the media that he had come to meet her in the hotel for some work and had even waited for one-and-half-hour to talk to her. Known for fixing deals, Bhawna named a few top politicians of the country as being very close to her.

From her hotel room, the police have seized phone numbers of some senior officials, some of who wanted her to use her influence in getting them transferred. The papers have been sealed, say police sources, adding that at least two senior Uttar Pradesh bureaucrats gave her Rs 13 lakh to effect their transfers.

She was also allegedly instrumental in a few government deals involving crores of rupees.

Inquiries made from the hotel staffers have revealed that costliest brands of Scotch and Champagne used to be served in the two rooms almost every evening.

The eldest sibling among six sisters and one brother, Bhawna hails from Kumaon Hills in Uttaranchal. Hers is the story of a small town spinster — and a graduate of the Kumaon University — trying to make it big in big cities.

Lucknow police are now investigating the reasons for her presence in the state capital. For the time being, Bhawna has been booked under Sections 353, 332, 419, 420, 467, 468, 471, 504 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code at Kaiserbagh police station here.

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