Death of accused in ₹900-crore Srijan Scam puts Bihar govt in a spot

Amidst allegations that the Srijan accused has been silenced, investigators are staring at a dead end following the death of Mahesh Mandal even as two other accused, Amit Kumar and Priya Kumar, continue to abscond

Photo by AP Dube/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by AP Dube/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Vikrant Jha

The death of Mahesh Mandal, one of the key accused in the ₹900 crore Srijan scam in Bihar, late on Sunday has triggered an Opposition demand that both Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his Deputy, Sushil Kumar Modi, should step down to facilitate an independent inquiry.

RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav tweeted that Mandal’s son was an influential leader of the JD(U) in the district. Shiv Mandal, son of Mahesh Mandal, is Zila Parishad member and Bhagalpur district youth wing president of the ruling Janata Dal United JD(U). Local media reports suggested that Shiv Kumar Mandal had spent a lot of money during the last local body election.

While Mandal, a clerk in the Welfare Department in Bhagalpur, was arrested on August 13, the state government is accused of ignoring the scandal though it surfaced four years ago. Indeed, the scandal had then come to light because a controversial ADM rank officer Jayshree Thakur deposited a single cheque worth 6 Crore in the Srijan Cooperative Bank which was not authorised to accept deposits above ₹50,000.

Jayshree Thakur was posted in either Bhagalpur or the adjacent district of Banka and the Bihar Chief Minister is accused of protecting her and not taking action against her even after the scandal surfaced in 2013. Even the Reserve Bank of India had then alerted the state government and sought an inquiry. But the controversial officer was finally dismissed from service only last week on Friday.

In yet another sarcastic tweet, Lalu Prasad questioned the claim of Nitish Kumar that he had no knowledge of the scam.

The death of one of the prime accused, Mandal, who reportedly confessed to having received a sum of ₹3 crore as commission from the NGO that operated the Cooperative Bank, is seen as a blow to the investigation. The death of a prime accused, who could have turned an approver and who could also have given important evidence, will hamper investigation and prosecution, observers felt.

Mandal’s death also raised questions with his family members alleging conspiracy and negligence by the Bhagalpur hospital. Curiously, the hospital claimed that Mandal was brought to the hospital at 10.17 pm on Sunday and even before he could be given any kind of treatment, he died at 10.37 pm , barely 20 minutes after his arrival. The family members apparently claimed that Mandal had a lot more information to share that could implicate important people. The insinuation was that he might have been silenced.

Mandal, who was allegedly suffering from cancer and also failure of kidneys and who was a diabetic, was under treatment at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, where he had undergone dialysis. If he had been so ill, why wasn’t he hospitalised after his arrest on August 13? He was in custody since his arrest and the police will have a hard time to explain why it delayed taking him to the hospital.

Hinting that the accused might have been killed to supress evidences, Tejashwi Yadav tweeted :

Neither Nitish Kumar nor Sushil Kumar Modi have replied to any of the allegations. However, Modi has continuously targeted the Yadav family over the issue of illegal acquisition of land.

Media reports said Mandal used to work as a conduit between the bank, government and the NGO by providing original bank statements to the founder secretary of the NGO, Manorama Devi.

Media reports also states that Mandal had admitted in front of police that he received ₹3 crore as commission from Srijan over the last 15 years.

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Published: 21 Aug 2017, 5:10 PM