Mumbai, Nov. 8: The special investigation team probing the Rs 3,000-crore stamp paper scam has now turned its attention to the role of senior Maharashtra police officers in the scandal.
Mumbai police commissioner Ranjit Singh Sharma was subjected to two sessions of intense “questioning’’ here today for his alleged links with Abdul Karim Telgi, the scam mastermind.
In Pune, Sreedhar Vagal, joint commissioner of police (intelligence), was remanded in police custody till November 13. The IPS officer was arrested yesterday for “conniving” with Telgi.
Sources said Sharma — who was Pune commissioner at the time the scam was unearthed two years ago — will be questioned further. The commissioner would not say what he had been quizzed about, but added: “I will cooperate with the SIT (special investigation team).”
It is learnt that Sharma was asked why he had deputed a tainted officer to “talk” to Telgi when the latter was lodged in a Bangalore jail last year.
Samshuddin Mushrif, who was Pune additional commissioner when the scam came to light, has stated in an affidavit that Sharma shielded corrupt officers and did not properly investigate the racket.
Elsewhere, Vagal has been charged under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, which covers underworld crimes.
Although it appears likely that more senior police officers will be arraigned, Vagal has achieved the dubious distinction of being the first IPS officer to be slapped with the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. He is the sixth police officer to be arrested in connection with the scam.
The fall of Vagal, a brilliant officer with degrees from IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad — he has an MSc in nuclear physics — has not come as a surprise.
The officer allegedly received Rs 90 lakh from Telgi to go soft on him and cover up some of his other crimes. It was during Vagal’s tenure as crime branch chief that Telgi was put up at a Mumbai hotel while in police “custody’’.
The scam mastermind, who was here on transfer remand from Karnataka police from October 2002 till January this year, did not spend a single day in jail during that period.
In September 2002, Vagal mysteriously let 23 bookies off the hook after they were arrested during the ICC tournament in Sri Lanka. The bookies later said they had paid Rs 50 lakh to the officer. Vagal was shunted out of the high profile crime branch for a year.
Some of those who functioned as his deputies then — assistant inspector Dilip Kamat, inspectors Datta Dhal and Vashisht Andhale — have already been arrested.
Adding to the officer’s woes, policemen from the investigation team and the anti-corruption bureau today seized five guns — some of them believed to be unlicensed and of foreign make — from his Bandra residence.
Police sources said if Vagal fails to satisfy them about the ownership of the weapons, he could also be hauled up under the Arms Act. During the raids, the police found some incriminating documents about Vagal’s investments, stuffed inside three suitcases and kept in the boot of his car.