Srijan manager Sarita Jha being taken to court on Saturday. Picture by Gautam Sarkar
Patna, Aug. 12: Former Bhagalpur district magistrate Prem Singh Meena had got wind of the illegal transfer of government funds to the account of Srijan Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti Ltd a few weeks prior to his transfer to Patna in 2014.
Reliable sources said that Meena, a 1992 batch IAS officer, had constituted a two-member team comprising a senior deputy collector, Sudhir Kumar, and district cooperative officer Pankaj Kumar Jha in November 2013 to probe the allegation of illegal transfer of government funds into the NGO's account.
Though Meena had asked the team to submit its report in two days, the inquiry was delayed. One of the members - Jha, who was holding additional charge of managing director of the district cooperative bank - suddenly fell ill.
Sources said that Meena sent reminders to the investigating team but they were ignored. On January 24, 2014, Meena was transferred from Bhagalpur and made inspector-general (prisons) in Patna. The report, however, remained under the carpet as his successors never looked into the matter. Meena was succeeded by B. Kartikey as district magistrate. He could not be reached for comment.
A senior official who was then posted in Bhagalpur district said Meena had initiated the probe in the wake of the directive of the Reserve Bank of India, which had received complaints against Srijan Mahila Vikas Sahyog Samiti regarding illegal transactions of money through its cooperative bank for women.
On September 9, 2013, the RBI had asked the registrar of the cooperative committees to look into the violation of its guidelines in this regard. Meena, who is at present posted as secretary in the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe welfare department, was not available for his comments.
A source close to the special investigation team (SIT) constituted by the state government said the maximum amount was transferred to the account of the NGO during the tenure of Birendra Prasad Yadav, who served as district magistrate from July 2014 to August 2015. The process of fund transfer started in 2007-08. Yadav could not be reached for comments.
The investigating officials seized cheques bearing forged signatures of three former Bhagalpur district magistrates - Santosh Kumar Mall, Narmadeshwar Lal and Vipin Kumar. The cheques were used to transfer the amount into the account of Srijan.
The SIT yesterday arrested seven persons, including the stenographer at the district magistrate's office Prem Kumar, who, allegedly in connivance with bank officials, used to divert the funds into the NGO's account. Banshidhar Jha, who allegedly printed fake statements of the district administration's bank accounts in his printing press and updated the fake passbooks, was also arrested.
Bhagalpur senior superintendent of police Manoj Kumar said: "Investigations have revealed that two methods were used for siphoning funds. The first is the 'sweep' method, in which the fund was directly credited to bank accounts of Srijan under possibly a direct understanding between the district magistrate's office and the bank. The second method was transfer through forged cheques."
The NGO, which invested the funds in real estate and other businesses, used to return the money to the government's bank account as and when the funds were needed.