Investigations threw up weird details

Investigations threw up weird details

A probe into the Rs 950-crore fodder scam and trial of its cases has thrown up many bizarre tales, which gave birth to several commonplace jokes in the hinterland of Bihar. 

A chicken gobbled up feed worth Rs 25,000 in a year, a truck ferrying cattle covered 18,000 kilometres a day and scooters pressed into service to carry cows, bulls and cattle feed were some of the weird stories.

The scam, which dates back to 1970s, surfaced only in mid-1990s, when it came to light that hefty amounts were withdrawn from various government treasuries in the state on the basis of bogus orders for supply of cattle, fodder and medicines by the Animal Husbandry Department.

The money so withdrawn was shared by department officials and unscrupulous suppliers in due proportions as negotiated by them in advance. Many of suppliers operated in firms, which never even existed and, in some cases, created overnight.
The modus operandi of the multi-crore scam, which was perhaps first in its sorts in terms of rigging of the government account books, was alleged to have been invented by the then Animal Husbandry Department official and prime accused in the case SB Sinha in 1974-75 who passed away in course of the trial of the cases.

“We could only collect evidence of the scam occurred between 1986 and 1995, though it was alleged to have been taking place since 1974-75. The incriminating documents of the irregularities committed before this period could not be traced as they were destroyed,” a retired official of the Central Bureau of Investigation, who had participated in the probe, told Deccan Herald.

He requested anonymity fearing reprisal from the accused. Many had warned him of dire consequences.

The case, first probed by the state department of vigilance, was later handed over to the CBI by an order of the Patna High Court in 1996.

The locals, including those known to some of the accused in the case, still recall the talks about how the beneficiaries of the scam stuffed money in sacks and threw them in their neighbours’ residence or into septic tanks in an abortive attempt to escape the prosecution when CBI sleuths knocked their doors. The secrets of the “kingsize life” of some of the prime accused, including the one known for raining currencies from his balcony to those reaching his door for help in Ranchi,  startled many of their friends, relatives and neighbours when the CBI booked them for their involvement in almost many cases of the scam.

A total of 53 cases of the scam involving more than 700 accused were later transferred for trial at special CBI courts in Ranchi in 2000 after a separate state of Jharkhand was carved out of the erstwhile Bihar.

As the trial of the cases went on for more than 13 years, most of the accused developed a good command over criminal law by spending their spare time reading law books and journals behind prison walls. On many occasions, these accused even surpassed their lawyers by suggesting them “legal points” to defend their cases.
The prolonged trial frustrated many of the accused. While some, one after another, pleaded guilty in the court so that they could take their cases for hearing in higher court, one Vinod Chirania committed suicide by jumping off a high rise building at Belighata in Kolkata in 2006 after he was convicted by a CBI court in a case of the scam. Out of 53 cases, trials in eight cases are still going on. Accused who paid hefty consultation fee to their lawyers now just want them to contest their cases against usual fee charged from other accused.

"They do not pay much fee now because they understand their case and have lost hope of getting any relief from the CBI courts. They want their cases to conclude fast so that they can be heard at higher court," a lawyer at Ranchi civil court said.  

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