Ranchi, May 8: When the CBI landed up at Harinarayan Rai’s ancestral home in Deoghar on Sunday looking for his wife, a co-accused in the disproportionate assets case that has kept the former minister in jail for more than two years, they couldn’t locate Sushila Devi among the several women who had crowded around the courtyard.
The net result was that the CBI team had to return empty handed from Sonaraitharhi village, forcing the investigators to turn their attention on her parent’s house in Dumka.
If the CBI can’t get to her soon, she will have to be declared absconder along with Menon Ekka, the wife of former minister and Rai’s jail mate, Anosh Ekka, also facing corruption cases.
During the raids on Sunday, CBI officers, including women constables, found themselves at a loss the moment they entered Rai’s sprawling residence that was renovated after he became a minister for the first time in the Arjun Munda cabinet of 2005.
“Though we had a picture of Sushila, we were confused. Since the accused happens to be a woman we could not arrest her amid all the other ghunghat-clad women of the family who had gathered there,” admitted an officer, requesting anonymity.
Rai is the second of four brothers. The youngest, Sanjay Rai, is also a co-accused in the disproportionate assets case. Other siblings are Dev Narayan Rai, a gram sevak at Sarath block, and Nandlal Rai, a para-teacher.
Also living with them are Rai’s mother, two nephews and their wives.
Both Rai and Ekka, who were also ministers in the Madhu Koda government of 2006, had floated construction companies in the name of their respective spouses.
Last week, while looking for Ekka’s wife, Menon, the CBI arrested his brother Gidion Ekka who is a co-accused along with four others — brother-in-law Jaikant Bara, brother Ibrahim Ekka, nephew Roshan Minz and an associate Deepak Lakra.
Now the investigating agency is convinced Menon, who is chairperson of Simdega district board, has gone underground.
The CBI search operation, according to sources, was prompted by a May 4 Supreme Court directive to Jharkhand High Court, asking for a report on pending cases against the two former ministers.
CBI lawyer S.K. Yadav said in both the cases against Rai and Ekka, the co-accused had not been produced in court. “Charges will be framed against them to begin trial only after all the accused are arrested and produced in court,” he said.
CBI sources said they would make two or three more attempts to arrest the the two women, failing which they would move court to declare them absconders. “If they still do not surrender, we will pary for attachment of their properties and begin trial against the duo separately,” said a CBI officer.
The CBI chargesheet against Rai, filed on January 17, claims the former minister had amassed assets worth Rs 3 crore, double the amount he earned legitimately between 2005 and 2009 by way of salaries and allowances.
Rai has been lodged at Birsa Munda Central Jail since August 17, 2009.
Ekka, who had floated Ekka Construction in the name of his wife Menon Ekka, has also been chargesheeted for amassing assets worth Rs 16.83 crore.