| Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with vice-chancellor Sujit Kumar Basu in Santiniketan on Sunday. Picture by Amit Dutta
Santiniketan, March 28: The Criminal Investigation Department, probing the heist of the Nobel medal and other memorabilia from the Rabindranath Memorial Museum, today changed tack to include a few Visva-Bharati University officials within the scope of its investigation.
As a breakthrough eluded the sleuths even three days after the theft, the CID got down to building cases against a few university officials it had identified as possible collaborators of the gang, which they believe was privy to inside information.
“This case is so difficult that we cannot hope to investigate it only from one angle (tracing the gang members),” CID inspector-general Bhupinder Singh said. “Certain (university) officials may have the answers to all our queries,” he added, stating that “many of them” were likely to be questioned in the next few days.
The district police and the CID detained 18 people after raids in the fringe areas of Santiniketan and neighbouring Burdwan district over the last 24 hours. Some were picked up from places like Shiyan and Mahitapur near Santiniketan and others, like Sunil Bagdi and two of his family members, were taken into custody at Benachiti in Durgapur.
Forensic experts collected Bagdi’s fingerprints and sent it to Calcutta for tests to determine whether they matched those recovered from the scene of the crime. “Even if Bagdi is not associated with this crime, he has given us several names that can serve as valuable clues,” a CID official said.
More raids would follow in the evening, CID special superintendent (west) Jayanta Basu said.
On their part, the university authorities, too, interrogated several middle-level officials. CID sleuths said their position was different from that of the university’s. “We should have a strong case against those whom we pick up (for interrogation) and, hence, the wait,” a senior CID official said.
So far, investigations have indicated that the burglars fled in a hurry by a narrow road leading out from the building backyard. “Fingerprint and footprint results have shown that the burglars had panicked and left though there were many more priceless items to be stolen,” the official said.
The CID has also based its haste theory on three other clues:
• The glass cases holding the treasures were carefully removed at the beginning but later, many were damaged
• The robbers, working in the dark, took some original Tagore paintings off the hooks but kept them back before taking a few fakes
• The bag carrying the booty was not lifted from one place to another but dragged along at places
CID additional director-general R.K. Mohanty today left for Delhi, where he will meet senior CBI officials and brief them about the case. Before leaving for Calcutta from Santiniketan en route to Delhi, Mohanty took a detailed report for the CBI, officials said.
At Behrampore, the district magistrates and superintendents of police of Malda and Murshidabad met their counterparts from neighbouring Jharkhand’s Pakur and Sahibganj. They discussed the possibility of sealing the border to intercept the stolen articles if the robbers try to smuggle them out, if they already haven’t done so.