Express Exclusive: The money trail, from the suspect and back

FP
As reported in The Indian Express yesterday, the Central Bureau of Investigation had probed allegations of clandestine meetings and payoffs between persons subsequently made accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and CBI officials in Mumbai handling the investigation. Excerpts from the probe report of the CBI's Special Unit:

In the car

On or around April 30, 2010, Yashpal Chudasama (later accused in counter case) contacted Nitin Shenoy to seek the help of his advocate friend K K Mannan. When Shenoy received the call, he was travelling in his car with his advocate friend Rajesh Ranjan. Chudasama was advised to wait at Bandra and picked up.

During the discussions, Ranjan inquired about the investigating officer. On coming to know Amitabh Thakur was the IO, he assured his help to Chudasama. To impress Chudasama and Shenoy, Ranjan made a call to Thakur and chatted informally. Chudasama requested Shenoy to seek the help of Ranjan in fixing issues arising out of the investigation.

The deal

In the fake encounter case, notices under CrPC section 160 against Chudasama and Ajay Patel were issued four times in May 2010. Between May 1 and 18, Ranjan informed Shenoy about the demand for Rs 3 crore by Amitabh Thakur. Shenoy conveyed the demand to Chudasama, who after three days accepted it.

On the train

Chudasama made a request for an informal meeting with Amitabh Thakur prior to his examination in the CBI office in Mumbai. Thakur agreed to meet them (Chudasama and Nitin Shenoy) on the Gujarat Mail on June 13, 2010. This was conveyed by Ranjan. Just before its departure, Shenoy and Chudasama boarded the train at Mumbai Central and met Thakur in the first class coupe. The complicity of Chudasama (in the encounter case) was discussed. The group travelled up to Borivali. Shenoy lent his spare mobile to Chudasama, as the latter was not carrying his mobile to escape detection by the CBI. At Borivali, Chudasama stepped down from another bogey while Shenoy alighted with Thakur. Ranjan was at the station... He asked about the meeting and Thakur replied it was satisfactory. Thakur continued his journey.

First payment

On June 15, 2010, Nitin Shenoy collected Rs 2 crore from Chudasama from Hotel Sea Princess and delivered Rs 1.75 crore to Rajesh Ranjan at his office in Santacruz. Shenoy (kept) Rs 25 lakh, which he had lent Ranjan in May.

After the delivery, Shenoy went to Kitab Mahal, where he met Chudasama. They went to Amitabh Thakur's chamber. Thakur asked Shenoy to wait outside during the examination of Chudasama. Ranjan too came and entered Thakur's chamber. Within 15-20 minutes of his arrival, Chudasama's statement was concluded and he was allowed to go.Shenoy and Chudasama went outside and waited in a restaurant where, after some time, Ranjan joined them.

Reminder of remainder

As Chudasama was moving towards his car, Ranjan reminded Shenoy about the remaining Rs 1 crore and also gave a mobile number to coordinate the payment. Shenoy later informed Chudasama of the remaining Rs 1 crore. Chudasama expressed his inability to pay that day. A reasonable inference can be made from the second demand that the first demand for Rs 2 crore had been honoured and that the money had reached its destination.

Second payment

After June 16, 2010, the remaining Rs 1 crore was sent to Delhi through a hawala operator, Bhargawa. Ranjan gave a mobile number to Shenoy to facilitate the funds transfer. Shenoy presumed the funds were transferred because Ranjan did not enquire about it subsequently.

Falling apart

On July 22, 2010, Yashpal Chudasama received a call about the CBI reaching his house searching for him. He fled from Hotel Sea Princess, where he was with Hemraj Waghela and Shenoy. Ranjan came as Yashpal was about to leave. Chudasama asked Ranjan and Shenoy to find out what had gone wrong when every demand of the officers had been met.

On July 23, Shenoy and Ranjan went to Ahmedabad and stayed in Hotel Haveli till July 25. On July 23, Ranjan met Amitabh Thakur. These two dates saw a lot of developments , such as Shenoy's meeting with Hemraj Waghela, Ranjan's denial of receiving any money from Shenoy, and a warning to Shenoy for repayment.

Payback

Shenoy was under threat to return the money. He returned Rs 1.765 crore in India and the rest was paid out of proceeds of land in Dubai. The amount in India was paid in six instalments — Rs 25 lakh (August 4), Rs 48.50 lakh (August 9), Rs 23 lakh (August 23), Rs 20 lakh (September 20), Rs 30 lakh (September 20) and Rs 30 lakh (October 1).

Roles

A reasonable inference can be drawn that Amitabh Thakur allowed/encouraged Rajesh Ranjan to act as a middleman rather than counting as a good friend who should not meddle in official matters. Thakur had enough hints that his proximity and friendship were being exploited. The fact that Thakur did not stop Ranjan gives reasonable, rather strong, suspicion that he himself had allowed Ranjan to act on his behalf. The role of Ranjan and Shenoy is that of middlemen who struck a deal on behalf of their respective friends... The statements (of witnesses) give credence to the (inference) that Ranjan was indulging in parking of the money.

Disbelief

...Chargesheeting of Chudasama and Patel was eventually ordered and CBI parties went to their homes. The reaction of these people was of the nature that "despite money being paid, the commitment by the concerned officers was not honoured". The return of money by Shenoy to Chudasama through Hemraj Waghela substantiate the dubious deal.

CASE DIARY

THE KILLINGS: Sohrabuddin Sheikh killed on November 26, 2005, allegedly in a fake encounter after being abducted with his wife Kausar Bi, who too is killed two days later.

4 civilians

Among those accused by the CBI — Amit Shah, Yashpal Chudasama, Ajay Patel, Raju Jeerawala. Shah and Jerawala on bail

15 arrested

All policemen, 5 IPS officers

Among arrested — Abhay Chudasama, D G Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian, N K Amin, and Dinesh M N, then SP Udaipur

THE DENIAL

"It is true that Rajesh Ranjan has been known to me... All the problems I have faced are because of my association with him. Allegations did surface... these were looked into threadbare in New Delhi and could not be proven."

Amitabh Thakur, CBI

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